The number of journalists killed in the line of duty is on track to decline in 2016 from recent record levels as fewer journalists were targeted for murder and war became the deadliest beat, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found in its annual analysis. Deaths in combat or crossfire ticked to their highest number since 2013 as conflicts in the Middle East dragged on.
At least 48 journalists were killed in relation to their work between January 1 and December 15, 2016, compared with 72 in the previous calendar year. CPJ is investigating the deaths of at least 27more journalists during the year to determine whether they were work-related. CPJ’s data is researched and vetted according to strict journalistic criteria.
More than half of the journalists killed in the year died in combat or crossfire, making up the highest proportion of killings since CPJ began keeping records. Syria was the most deadly country for journalists for the fifth year in a row. At least 14 journalists were killed in Syria in 2016, the same number as in 2015, bringing the total number killed there in the line of duty since conflict broke out to at least 107.
“It is undeniably good news that fewer journalists are being murdered, and the decline shows the critical importance of the fight to end impunity,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, adding: “However, journalists covering war continue to be killed at an extraordinarily high rate, a reflection of the brutality and unpredictability of modern conflict.”
Historically, around two-thirds of journalists killed are singled out for murder in retaliation for their coverage, compared with about one-third in 2016. CPJ identified 18 journalists murdered this year, the lowest number on record since 2002. The reason for the drop is unclear, and could be the result of a combination of several factors detailed in the report.
War was the most dangerous beat for journalists this year, covered by 75 percent of victims. Political groups, including Islamist militant organizations, were responsible for more than half of the killings of journalists. In response to the high level of conflict-related killings in recent years, CPJ has established an Emergencies Response Team and is planning to publish a report on safety in 2017.
CPJ began compiling detailed records on all journalist deaths in 1992. CPJ considers a case work-related only when its staff is reasonably certain that a journalist was killed in direct reprisal for his or her work; in combat-related crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment. CPJ’s list does not include journalists who died of illness or were killed in car or plane accidents