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December 17, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:44am

Lowest death toll for journalists in 16 years as 49 killed in 2019, says Reporters Without Borders

By Freddy Mayhew

A total of 49 journalists were killed as a result of their work this year, the lowest since 2003, according to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres).

The figure represents a 44 per cent fall on the number killed last year, reported as 80 by RSF, and a 16-year low, although journalism remains a dangerous profession, the press freedom group has warned.

The drop is predominantly the result of a fall in the number of journalists killed in war zones, with 17 dying in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan this year compared with 34 in those countries last year.

For the first time, no journalists this year were killed while abroad.

“This unprecedented fall must not, however, eclipse the fact that the number of journalists killed in countries at peace continues to be as high as in previous years,” said an RSF spokesperson.

The death toll includes 36 professional journalists, ten amateur journalists and three media workers.

Among them is Lyra McKee, 29, who was shot dead while reporting on rioting in Derry, Northern Ireland, in April. Paramilitary organisation the New IRA claimed responsibility for her death.

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RSF said more journalists (59 per cent) are being killed in countries at peace than in war zones in 2019, with a two per cent rise in journalists being deliberately murdered or targeted.

Ten journalists were killed in Mexico alone this year, the same number as last year, bringing the total to 14 journalists deaths in Latin America – now as deadly for journalists as the Middle East.

Syria and Mexico (pictured) were the two deadliest countries for journalists in 2019.

The numbers of journalists in prison reached 389 this year, up 12 per cent on last year, with a further 57 being held hostage.

Nearly half are being held by three countries: China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, RSF said. A third are in China alone as a result of a crackdown on the Muslim minority Uyghur community.

More than 40 per cent of journalists jailed by the Chinese Communist Party are amateurs who are trying to compensate for the party’s tight control on the media, RSF said. The vast majority are Uyghurs.

“The frontier between countries at war and countries at peace is in the process of disappearing for journalists, said RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire.

“We welcome the unprecedented fall in the number of journalists killed in war zones but, at the same time, more and more journalists are being deliberately murdered in connection with their work in democratic countries, which poses a real challenge for the democracies where these journalists live and work.”

The annual figure of journalist deaths and detentions, compiled every year since 1995 by RSF, is based on data covering 1 January to 1 December. Only journalists killed as a direct result of their journalistic work are included.

Picture: Reuters/Nadya Murillo

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