Killings of journalists in reprisal for work doubled in 2018: Report

New York: The number of journalists killed on duty rose in 2018 and the number murdered in reprisal for their work doubled, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on Wednesday.

“The number of journalists targeted for murder in reprisal for their reporting nearly doubled in 2018 from a year earlier, driving up the overall count of journalists killed on the job,” the CPJ said in the report, which highlighted the killing of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

In total, 53 deaths were registered from January 1 to December 15 this year, as compared to 47 in 2017 and 50 in 2016.

Among the deaths, at least 34 were “singled out for murder” as compared to 18 journalists killed in the same way in 2017.

“Afghanistan was the deadliest country and accounted for much of the increase,” the CPJ said, adding that some 13 journalists were killed in the South Asian country — nine of them on April 30 in a double suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State where the second blast seemingly targeted journalists and first responders who had gathered at the scene.

The CPJ also noted the deaths of four reporters at the Capital Gazette newspaper in the US state of Maryland. They were killed by a man whose defamation case against the company had failed.

In total, the CPJ said that as well as the 34 reporters killed in reprisal for their work, 11 were killed in crossfire or combat and another eight in dangerous assignments.

According to the organization, the global crisis of press freedom was closely tied to “changes in technology that allowed more people to practise journalism even as it made journalists expendable to the political and criminal groups who once needed the news media to spread their message”.

Another factor was a “lack of international leadership on journalists’ rights and safety”. The report highlighted the case of Khashoggi in this respect.

“The White House, traditionally a strong defender of global press freedom, has equivocated on the blame for Khashoggi’s murder despite, according to the (Washington) Post, CIA conclusions that only the Crown Prince could have ordered such an operation,” the report said.

It pointed out US President Donald Trump’s statement that whether Khashoggi’s murder was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or not, the US “intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia”.

“Essentially, Trump signalled that countries that do enough business with the US are free to murder journalists without consequence,” the report said.

The CPJ also highlighted a European crisis, citing the murder of Slovakian reporter Jan Kuciak in February after Malta’s Daphne Caruana Galizi in 2017. Both cases remain unsolved, facilitating “a state of impunity that … inevitably perpetuates further violence”.

On the other hand, the number of journalists killed in combat or crossfire dropped to the lowest since 2011.