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1st Aug 2021

Journalists at risk despite fall in war fatalities

  • Turkey led the way in journalist detentions in Europe (Photo: Reuters)

Fewer journalists were killed in the line of work in the past year, but targeted killings and state detentions grew, a leading NGO has noted.

The two deaths in Europe came in Northern Ireland and Ukraine, while Turkey continued to jail press in alarming numbers, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders noted in a report out on Tuesday (17 December).

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  • Syria, in EU neighbourhood, was deadliest conflict (Photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)

Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee died in crossfire in April in a sectarian clash in the town of Derry in "a reminder of the vulnerability of reporters ... covering such moments of public anger and confusion," it said.

And Ukrainian journalist Vadym Komarov was beaten to death in May in the town of Cherkasy, highlighting the fact that "outside war zones, the other great threat to journalists is ... organised crime".

At the same time, Turkey put 25 journalists behind bars and prosecuted dozens of other media representatives on charges of terrorist affiliations or insulting the president.

Turkey's war on Kurdish forces in Syria also killed two journalists and a Russian air strike in the Syrian town of Idlib killed another reporter in the EU neighbourhood.

The number of journalists killed worldwide fell to 49 - the lowest since 2003.

But that came from a steep fall in deaths from war reporting, while the number of journalists who were "murdered or deliberately targeted" for their work grew to 63 percent of all victims.

The war reporting fall came partly due to fewer correspondents covering conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen because of security conditions, further blunting the good news.

Mexico broke records by having the highest number of journalist killings (10) of any country not at war, the same figure as in Syria.

And state repression tightened its grip around the globe, with 389 journalists being held in connection with their work at the start of December 2019, 12 percent more than the year before.

China led the way in world jailings, putting 120 journalists in prison, double the figure for 2018.

They included Ilham Tohti, who won a European Parliament prize for covering China's crackdown on its Uyghur minority, and Lu Guang, who has won the World Press Photo prize in The Hague three times in recent years.

Having Western press credentials also did little to help others closer to home, Tuesday's report indicated, with fighters in the Russia-occupied Donetsk in eastern Ukraine snatching Stanislav Aseyev, who had covered the conflict for US news group Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as a hostage in August.

Journalism hit hard by corona crisis

An already fragile business model for journalism might be dealt a lethal blow in the corona crisis. And the freedom of the press itself is coming under extreme pressure, as governments take swift and debilitating measures fighting the pandemic.

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