Journalist group counts 94 slayings of media staff in 2018

BRUSSELS (AP) — An international trade association said on-the-job slayings of journalists and news media staff rose again in 2018 following an overall decline during the past half-dozen years.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said in an annual report set for release on Monday that 94 journalists and media workers died in targetted killings, bomb attacks and conflict crossfire this year, 12 more than in 2017.

Before the declines seen in five of the past six years, 121 people working for news organisations were slain in 2012. Since the federation started its annual count in 1990, the year with the most work-related killings, 155, was 2006.

The deadliest country for people who work in the news media this year was Afghanistan, where 16 of the killings occurred. Mexico was next, with 11. Yemen had nine media slayings and Syria eight in 2018.

Beyond the tragedy of lives lost, such killings affect the pursuit of truth and sharing of information in communities and countries where they happen, the President of the IFJ said.

A man carries a portrait of slain journalist Hector Gonzalez Antonio as his daughter (L) mourns during his funeral in Mexico City on May 31, 2018. – AP

“Journalists are targetted because they are witnesses,” the group’s President, Philippe Leruth, told The Associated Press. “And the result of this, when a journalist or many journalists are killed in a country, you see an increase of self-censorship.”

Iraq, where 309 media professionals were killed over the past quarter-century, long topped the federation’s annual list. The federation identified a photojournalist as the one victim in the country this year.

While 2018 brought a worldwide increase, the total remained in the double digits for a second year running.

The IFJ connects some 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries. The group said the new report showed that journalists face dangers apart from the risks of reporting from war zones and covering extremist movements.

“There were other factors, such as the increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption and crime, as well as the breakdown of law and order,” the Brussels-based group said in a statement.