By Anwar Iqbal (Dawn)
WASHINGTON, Dec 18: Sixty-seven journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2012, making it one of the worst years for the media in recent memory, says a report released on Tuesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
This is a 42 per cent increase in the number of deaths from the previous year.
CPJ blames the war in Syria, a record number of shootings in Somalia and continued violence in Pakistan for this sharp rise. CPJ’s annual analysis notes that in 2012 internet journalists were hit harder than ever, while the proportion of freelancers was again higher than the historical average.
Pakistan, the deadliest place for journalists in 2010 and 2011, dropped two notches this year, but the number of fatalities held steady at seven. Four of those killings took place in Balochistan. Among the victims was Abdul Haq Baloch, a correspondent for ARY Television, who was shot in September as he was leaving the Khuzdar Press Club, where he served as secretary-general.
“The authorities have held no one accountable in the killing, which is the near-universal result in media murders in both the region and across the nation,” the report points out. CPJ also documented the death of one media support worker in 2012. In Pakistan, Mohammad Amir of ARY TV was killed while driving a news crew to cover violent protests in Peshawar.
Freelancer Mukarram Khan Aatif, who contributed to Dunya News and to Deewa Radio, a Pashto-language service of the US government-funded Voice of America, was shot outside a mosque in Shabqadar, about 15 miles north of Peshawar. Although the Taliban claimed responsibility for the January slaying, Mr Aatif’s in-depth coverage of conflict along the Pakistan-Afghan border had made him numerous enemies.
In Brazil, four journalists were killed in direct relation to their work, representing the country’s highest annual toll in more than a decade and bringing the total number of fatalities over the past two years to seven. The targeted journalists wrote about political corruption and like one-third of murder victims worldwide, they too had reported receiving threats.
With 67 journalists killed in direct relation to their work by mid-December, 2012 is on track to become one of the deadliest years since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992. The worst year on record for journalist killings was 2009, when 74 individuals were confirmed dead because of their work—nearly half of them slain in a massacre in Maguindanao province, Philippines. CPJ is investigating the deaths of 30 more journalists in 2012 to establish whether they were work-related.
Syria was by far the deadliest country in 2012, with 28 journalists killed in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces. In addition, a journalist covering the Syrian conflict was killed just over the border in Lebanon. The number of fatalities related to the Syrian conflict approached the worst annual toll recorded during the war in Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed in both 2006 and 2007.
In the Syrian conflict, citizen journalists have played a key role in reporting the events happening around them and have paid a high price for their courage. At least 13 citizen journalists – who do not work for any media organisation – were killed in Syria in 2012. One of them, Anas al-Tarsha, was only 17. Ali Abbas, head of domestic news for the state-run SANA news agency, was killed in Damascus by an Islamist group linked to al Qaeda.
Mosaab al-Obdaallah, a reporter for the state-owned daily Tishreen, was shot point-blank in his home by Syrian security forces for sending news and photos about the conflict to pro-opposition websites.
Worldwide, the vast majority of victims — 94 per cent — were local journalists covering events in their own countries, a proportion roughly in line with historical figures. Four international journalists were killed in 2012, all of them in Syria. Combat-related crossfire was responsible for more than one-third of journalist fatalities worldwide in 2012, about twice the historical proportion.
About half of the deaths in 2012 were targeted murders, less than the 69 per cent average over the past two decades. The balance of the 2012 fatalities came during dangerous assignments, such as coverage of street protests. Murder accounted for all 12 deaths in Somalia in 2012, the deadliest year on record for a country that has a long history of media killings. Not a single journalist murder has been prosecuted in Somalia over the past decade.
Journalists who worked online made up more than one-third of the 2012 toll, a sharp rise from the one-fifth proportion in 2011 and the largest segment CPJ has documented for online journalists.
In parallel, the proportion of print journalists who died in the line of duty fell to a record low of 31 per cent. Over the past two decades, print journalists have accounted for more than half of those killed. Television and radio journalists constituted the balance of the 2012 toll. Twenty-eight per cent of journalists killed in 2012 were freelance, in line with 2011 but twice the percentage that freelancers have represented over time. War, politics, and human rights were the three most common beats among the 2012 victims.
About 35 per cent of those killed in 2012 were camera operators or photographers, a proportion considerably higher than the 20 per cent they have constituted in the death toll over the past two decades. About two-thirds of those killed in Syria carried a camera. Outside Syria, fatalities declined in the Middle East and North Africa. Two work-related deaths were reported elsewhere in the region.
In Bahrain, freelance videographer Ahmed Ismail Hassan was shot after filming a pro-reform protest. In Egypt, newspaper reporter Al-Hosseiny Abou Deif died after being struck by a rubber bullet fired by a person whom witnesses identified as a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. For the first time since 2003, CPJ did not confirm any work-related fatalities in Iraq.
CPJ documented the deaths of one imprisoned journalist and one reporter under arrest. Critical Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti died four days after being arrested on allegations of “acting against national security.” In Colombia, freelance reporter Guillermo Quiroz Delgado died after being hospitalized for injuries suffered when he was arrested by police while covering a street protest.