Afghanistan and Mexico top grim tally of journalist deaths

Afghanistan, Mexico and Iraq emerged as the most dangerous countries for the media in the first six months of 2017, according to the International News Safety Institute’s (INSI) Killing the Messenger report.

From January to June of this year, 35 media workers were killed as a result of doing their work, and more than half of them died in countries supposedly at peace.

It was in Afghanistan where the largest number of media workers were killed. There, nine people died in three separate bomb attacks as so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and the Taliban directly targeted the press.

“The Taliban and their affiliates are using terror to stop the journalists and free media. These terrorist groups define independent media as the key obstacle toward reviving their ideological agenda,” said Afghan journalist Abdullah Khenjani.

Once again Mexico trailed Afghanistan as the second bloodiest country for the media with seven journalists shot dead in just six months. The murders prompted protests in Mexico City, and the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to vow to strengthen the protection of journalists, but the members of the country’s press say this isn’t enough.

“We don’t need flamboyant declarations or flamboyant statements. Justice isn’t built with good intentions and declarations; it’s built by combatting impunity, which is the obligation of Mexican authorities. But there’s no combatting impunity head-on for crimes against journalists. They aren’t investigated and no-one is held responsible,” said Mexican journalist Elia Baltazar

The war in Iraq claimed the lives of six journalists, many of whom were caught in the crossfire.

Between January 1 and June 30:

  • 33 local journalists and two international journalists were killed
  • 19 journalists were shot dead and 10 were blown up
  • 2 journalists were killed in Pakistan, Yemen, Russia and Dominican Republic

Killing the Messenger, which was compiled for INSI by Cardiff School of Journalism, showed a decline in the overall number of deaths of reporters compared with the first six months of last year when the grim tally stood at 49.  

"While we are pleased to see a reduction in deaths of media workers over the first six months of the year, we are concerned about the growing number of physical and digital attacks against journalists, which are causing many to self-censor and some even to leave the profession entirely. This has such a damaging effect on individual lives, but also on democracy at large,” said INSI assistant director Anna Bevan.

The killers of journalists are seldom brought to justice. During this six-month period INSI recorded three cases where suspects were identified and arrests made.  

Image by AFP