The November massacre of 30 media workers in the Philippines made 2009 the deadliest year ever for journalists, according to a report by a press advocacy group.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says in a report to be released Thursday that at least 68 journalists were killed in 2009, a 60 percent increase over 2008, when 42 deaths were recorded.
“What stands out is that three quarters are killed deliberately for their work, and in 85 percent of these cases no one is brought to justice,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “This has a poisonous effect on good journalism.”
Until the November massacre in the Philippine province of Maguindanao, where 57 people, including 30 journalists, were killed, 2009 seemed likely to end with 38 killings – a lower death toll than the previous year.
The previous high one-year total was 67 killings recorded in 2007.
The latest figures still represented a disturbing trend, especially in Somalia where nine journalists were murdered and killed in combat situations, Mahoney said.
Four journalists were also killed in Pakistan, making it the second-most deadly country in 2009, followed by Russia where three journalists were killed.
Two journalists were killed in both Mexico and Sri Lanka. Other countries with media fatalities were Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Venezuela.
Fifty-six percent of those killed worked for print media, highlighting the continuing importance of newspapers and blogs in covering important stories that may not lend themselves to television.
“In Mexico, print journalists, for example, are the ones who tend to write the exposes on organized crime and drug trafficking,” Mahoney said. “It’s the fact that a lot of print journalists are doing that kind of work that gets them killed by assassins.”
Mahoney added that the killings have had a chilling effect on journalism, leading many Mexican news organizations to simply stop reporting on drug trafficking and organized crime.
According to the report, almost all of the victims were local journalists, not foreign correspondents.
Joshua Friedman, a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism and member of CPJ’s board of directors, says local journalists are finding themselves as targets more often as large international news organizations scale back their foreign operations.
“Increasingly foreign news is being gathered by freelancers and less experienced reporters,” Friedman said. “It’s much harder to kill a world famous CNN correspondent than someone who no one has heard of.”