Bullets, Bombs and Beatings -- Record Number of Journalists Pay Deadly Price of News
Brussels, 3 January - A record 171 journalists and other news professionals died at work in 2007, paying the ultimate price for the news.
But behind the grim statistics may lie some glimmers of possible hope for a better future.
The number of journalists apparently murdered because of their work fell for the first time in recent years, from 133 in 2006 -- the previous record year for deaths -- to 120.
And the international community began to respond to the killings and their deadly impact on freedom of expression in so many countries.
However, the number of people who died in air and road accidents while covering the news shot up from 22 to 35 -- helping make the United States the worst country for news media fatalities outside of Iraq. All but one of the American deaths were in accidents, including four when two news helicopters collided while covering a police car chase in Phoenix, Arizona, last July.
According to INSI's statistics, compiled in cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global death toll in 2007 comprised 144 journalists and 27 support staff such as drivers, technicians and other essential members of the news gathering and production teams in 36 countries.
In addition to murder and accidents, random crossfire claimed the lives of 14 while the causes of two deaths could not be determined. Circumstances often are unclear as only a handful of journalist deaths -- as few as one in 10 -- are investigated and successfully prosecuted.
At least 100 died in gunfire -- one assassinated in a blaze of 50 bullets -- 20 in bombings and four by beating. Two had their throats cut, one was tortured to death and two were asphyxiated.
As always, most of the casualties were not international war correspondents but local journalists, trying to work in their own countries, in peace as well as conflict.
The worst single killing ground in 2007 again was Iraq where 65 news personnel died. All but one, a Russian freelance photographer, were Iraqis, the "unsung heroes" of the war coverage. A total of 236 members of the media now have died since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Otherwise the other most dangerous countries for the news media were Mexico and Somalia, with nine deaths each, Pakistan (8), Brazil (7), Sri Lanka (6), Philippines and India (5), Afghanistan (4) and Haiti (3).
"The death toll is appalling, unacceptable, and still getting worse," said INSI Director Rodney Pinder.
"In these awful circumstances we may grasp at straws, but it is slightly encouraging to see the fall in the number of suspected murders and note indications of increasing awareness of this issue by the international community. It is far too early to tell if the decline in the targeting of journalists is the start of a trend -- a reaction in many societies to the terrible price being paid for the news -- or if it is just a blip in the steady rise recorded since the start of the millennium. We can but hope it is the former, perhaps encouraged by the notice being taken by the international community."
He added, however: "It is a human tragedy that the fall in deliberate killing is matched by an increase in accidental deaths, many of them surely avoidable. INSI continues to urge employers, and journalists themselves, to take safety more seriously in an increasingly dangerous world."
Following a two-year campaign by INSI, the IFJ and the European Broadcasting Union, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists in conflict on 23 December 2006. It urged member states to end impunity for the killers of journalists, seen as one of the driving forces behind the rise in murders in recent years. In January this year the Council of Europe passed Resolution 1535 on the safety of journalists in peace as well as war.
The third World Electronic Media Forum (WEMF3) in Malaysia last month called on UN member states to observe Resolution 1738 in letter and spirit and urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a Special Rapporteur on journalist safety in his office to monitor the situation.
More than 1,200 news media professionals have now died trying to cover the news between 1996 and mid-2007.
Details of all fatal incidents recorded by INSI in 2007 and previous years can be obtained from http://www.newssafety.com/casualties/2007.htm. Related article by Rodney Pinder, INSI Director: Some Light In Darkest Year For Journalists http://www.newssafety.com/stories/insi/killed07tribute.htm
The International News Safety Institute is a unique coalition of news organisations, journalist support groups and individuals exclusively dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous environments. It is a non-profit charity, supported by membership contributions which are channelled back into safety work. As a safety organisation, INSI records all causes of death, whether deliberate, accidental or health-related, of all news media staff and freelancers while on a news assignment or as a result of a news organisation being attacked because of its work.
Other journalist support groups who are members of INSI maintain their own records based on their own criteria. They are:
The International Federation of Journalists http://www.ifj.org
The Committee to Protect Journalists http://www.cpj.org
The International Press Institute http://www.freemedia.at/cms/ipi
The World Association of Newspapers http://www.wan-press.org
Any questions about this news release should be addressed to Rodney Pinder, email firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile +44 7734 709 267 or Sarah De Jong, email email@example.com or tel +32 22 235 22 01 or mobile +32 497 707 685