By: Joe Strupp
At least 55 journalists died around the world in 2006 doing their jobs, an increase from 47 in 2005, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which tracks such information.
The non-profit group also revealed that more than half of those deaths, 32, occurred in Iraq.
The Iraq figures make that country’s death toll for journalists the highest ever for a single country in one year since CPJ began keeping track in 1981.
“The deaths in Iraq this year reflect the utter deterioration in reporters’ traditional status as neutral observers in wartime,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “When this conflict began more than three and half years ago, most journalists died in combat-related incidents. Now, insurgents routinely target journalists for perceived affiliations-political, sectarian, or Western. This is an extraordinarily alarming trend because along with the terrible loss of life, it is limiting news reporting in Iraq-and, in turn, our own understanding of a vital story.”
The CPJ report on those deaths, released today, added that “In most cases, such as the killing of Atwar Bahjat, one of the best-known television reporters in the Arab world, insurgents specifically targeted journalists to be murdered, CPJ found in a new analysis.”
After Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines, with three deaths apiece, had the next highest death toll, while Russia, Mexico, Pakistan, and Colombia each had two journalists killed.
“But for the fourth consecutive year, Iraq was in a category all its own as the deadliest place for journalists,” the report stated. “This year’s killings bring to 92 the number of journalists who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003. In addition, 37 media support workers-interpreters, drivers, fixers, and office workers-have been killed since the war began.
“Only four journalists died in Iraq in 2006 as a result of crossfire or acts of war,” the report added. “The other 28 were murdered, half of them threatened beforehand. Three were kidnapped and then slain, CPJ found.”
Other trends related to Iraq coverage in the report included:
? Thirty of 32 journalists killed were Iraqis, continuing a two-year trend in which local journalists have made up an overwhelming proportion of the casualties.
? Murder now accounts for 61 percent of deaths in Iraq since the war began. The incidence of murder began to increase 20 months ago and accelerated in the past year. Crossfire and combat-related incidents had been a more frequent cause of media deaths in the first two years of the war.
? The 2006 Iraq toll jumped 45 percent from the 22 deaths recorded in 2005.
? The war in Iraq is the deadliest conflict CPJ has documented. Iraq has far surpassed the Algerian civil conflict of the 1990s, which took the lives of 58 journalists.
? The 2006 tally in Iraq is the highest in a single country since CPJ was founded in 1981. The second deadliest years were 2004 in Iraq and 1995 in Algeria, both of which saw 24 journalists killed.
CPJ also revealed that murder was the leading cause of journalist deaths in 2006, accounting for about 85 percent of cases. “Among those slain was Russian Anna Politkovskaya, a leading investigative journalist and critic of President Vladimir Putin,” the report stated. “She was shot, contract-style, in her Moscow apartment building on October 7. “
“When an internationally renowned reporter can be gunned down in her own apartment building and the perpetrators walk away free, it has a devastating effect on the press. Fewer tough questions are asked, fewer risky stories are covered,” Simon said. “Her case shows why impunity is such a serious threat to press freedom, not only in Russia but in nations such as the Philippines, Colombia, Mexico, and Pakistan.”
The entire report is available at www.cpj.org