Going into the last week of the year, 48 journalists had been killed worldwide in 2013, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Of those, 17 were murdered, 19 were killed in crossfire or combat and 12 were killed on dangerous assignment. On the plus side, it was a drop from the 73 journalists killed in 2012.
Just last month, at least 51 journalists were attacked while covering political protests in the Ukraine capital of Kiev. Several of the journalists were targeted by a riot police unit known as Berkut, which was preventing protesters from storming the presidential administration building, according to CPJ. Maryana Zakusilo, of Telekritika, said that Berkut police beat journalists even though they had valid press IDs, wore vests marked “Press,” and had identified themselves as reporters. Several reporters suffered injuries, including head wounds and broken limbs, from being hit by rocks, flash grenades, and gas pellets and others had their reporting equipment damaged.
This has to stop.
A week before the incident in Kiev, the Swedish government confirmed that two Swedish male journalists had been kidnapped in Syria by an unknown group. They were kidnapped as they were trying to leave the country.
The men’s reported abduction comes amid a string of kidnappings across Syria. Approximately 30 local and international journalists are currently missing in Syria, with several cases not being publicized at the request of family members and news outlets. A reported 52 journalists have been killed since Syria’s civil war began in early 2011.
This has to stop.
On the same weekend in which the journalists were attacked in Kiev, the Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association reported that Israeli forces threw stun grenades and fired rubber-coated bullets at journalists covering clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces at the Qalandiya crossing, which connects the northern West Bank and Jerusalem.
The report said that one rubber-coated bullet was fired at an Italian freelance journalist at eye level. “Fortunately the photographer was taking pictures at the time and the rubber bullet shattered the camera instead of his head,” the FPA report said.
And, again, on that same weekend in early December, Philippine radio journalist Joas Dignos was fatally shot. Dignos was a local radio commentator, according to news reports, who often criticized local officials.
This has to stop.
In August 2013, CPJ marked the 1,000th journalist killed since the organization started keeping detailed records in 1992.
CPJ Executive Directive Joel Simon summed it up perfectly while speaking at the CPJ annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner in late November: “We should not have to depend on the willingness of journalists to risk their lives to bring us the news that we need.” Indeed, in a supposed civilized world, journalists should not have to fear for their lives in order to do their jobs. There should be some sort of cocoon that protects them from harm. Because, no matter where they’re from, their purpose is not to harm others.
Of course, journalists who are reckless and unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way are another story. But those are very rare cases, according to the CPJ.
So, what can you, as a journalist—or anyone, for that matter—do to help protect journalists from being kidnapped, hurt, or killed while in the line of duty? One way is to make a donation to the CPJ at cpj.org.