The Most Murderous Countries for Journalists
Which country has seen the most journalists killed on duty since 2000? Naturally, my initial guesses revolved around the wars, so Iraq and Afghanistan came to mind. But the actual answer stunned me:
Murder is the leading cause of job-related deaths among journalists worldwide, and the Philippines is the most murderous country of all, a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. Iraq, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Russia round out CPJ’s list of the “Most Murderous Countries for Journalists.”
In the Philippines, 18 journalists have been slain for their work since 2000. All had reported on government and police corruption, drug dealing, and the activities of crime syndicates.
Many were rural radio commentators or reporters who were ambushed in drive-by assassinations. Philippine journalists attribute the violence to a nationwide breakdown in law and order, the wide circulation of illegal arms, and the failure to convict a single person in the murders.
In Iraq, crossfire is the leading cause of death among journalists. But even in this war zone, 13 of the 41 work-related deaths were murders, CPJ found. More than half of those murdered were Iraqi journalists who were targeted by insurgents because of their affiliationÃ¢€”real or perceivedÃ¢€”with coalition forces, foreign organizations, or political entities.
This last paragraph indicates that the CPJ distinguishes between murder and other violent deaths. If we set aside the distinction and look simply at overall danger, perhaps Iraq surpasses the Philippines. Relatedly, though, journalists in Iraq take greater precautions, precisely because of the combat environment:
In Iraq, however, foreign journalists are protected by armed security in hotels or residential compounds in which they are staying. Many media companies that can afford it also hire armed guards to secure their staff while traveling.
“The situation at the moment in Iraq is particular, with extreme violence targeting journalists too,” Julliard said. “So there is no other solution than hiring security companies at least to ensure their protection in buildings and transports.”
Unsurprisingly, as Radio Free Europe adds, journalists in the Philippines have started to arm themselves:
Blasting away at targets with 0.45-caliber pistols, a group of Filipino journalists held their first shooting test in a military camp on 26 May.
Joel Egco, the president of a newly formed group promoting responsible gun ownership among local journalists, the Association of Responsible Media, told Reuters that the event was the first in a series of activities aimed at helping the media protect themselves from attackers who have already gunned down five Filipino journalists in 2004.
“The violence is getting worse and yes, the government is not doing enough and the justice system is very slow,” Egco said. “Now they know that we are preparing ourselves. ‘Mediamen’ in the Philippines are shooting it out with our attackers.”
But Inday Espina-Varona, president of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said she disagrees with journalists carrying weapons. She said that the only answer to stop the violence is to bring to justice the people responsible for all attacks on journalists.
While I recognize that journalists run the risk of being mistaken for combatants (broadly defined), the union’s position assumes that weak states can consistently “bring to justice” the murderers. But the fact is that these governments routinely face corruption and other law-enforcement problems. The dangers are too high and the protections too low to have meaningful deterrent effects. Journalists need to supplement their safety, and unfortunately, it sometimes has to come down to bearing arms. Given that they’re constantly in harm’s way — not just occasionally in danger zones — I don’t think that they can rely solely on government security.
(Of course, journalists should learn to use their weapons responsibly. That’s a given.)