The second part of the annual round-up of abusive treatment and violence against journalists published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has indicated that a total of 50 journalists were killed worldwide in 2020.
The report, which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by the RSF, noted that while the number of journalists killed in countries at war continued to fall, more were being murdered in countries, not at war.
It said of the 50 journalists killed, two-thirds were in countries “at peace.”
The report tallied 50 cases of journalists killed in connection with their work from 1st January to 15th December 2020, a number similar to 2019 when 53 journalists were killed, although fewer journalists had been in the field this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It recalled in 2016, 58 per cent of media fatalities took place in war zones.
The report said now only 32 per cent of the fatalities were in war-torn countries such as Syria or Yemen or countries with low or medium-intensity conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
It said in other words, 68 per cent (more than two thirds) of the fatalities were in countries “at peace,” – Mexico (with eight journalists killed), India (four), the Philippines (three) and Honduras (three).
The report said of all the journalists killed in connection with their work in 2020, 84 per cent were knowingly targeted and deliberately murdered, as compared to 63 per cent in 2019; adding that some were murdered in a particularly barbaric manner.
“In Mexico, Julio Valdivia Rodríguez, a reporter for the daily El Mundo, was found beheaded in the eastern state of Veracruz, while Víctor Fernando Álvarez Chávez, the editor of the local news website Punto x Punto Noticias, was cut to pieces in the western city of Acapulco,” it said.
“In India, Rakesh “Nirbhik” Singh, a reporter for the Rashtriya Swaroop newspaper, was burned alive in December after being doused with a highly flammable, alcohol-based hand sanitiser in his home in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh by men sent by a local official whose corrupt practices he had criticised, while Isravel Moses, a TV reporter in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, was hacked to death with machetes.”
“The world’s violence continues to be visited upon journalists,” Mr Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General said.
“Some may think that journalists are just the victims of the risks of their profession, but journalists are increasingly targeted when they investigate or cover sensitive subjects. What is being attacked is the right to be informed, which is everyone’s right.”
The report said as, in the past, the most dangerous stories were investigations into cases of local corruption or misuse of public funds (10 journalists killed in 2020) or investigations into the activities of organised crime (four killed).
It said in a new development in 2020, seven journalists were killed while covering protests.
The report noted that in Iraq, three journalists were killed in the same way: by a shot to the head fired by unidentified gunmen while they were covering protests.
It said a fourth was killed in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region while trying to flee from clashes between security forces and demonstrators.
The report said in Nigeria, two journalists fell victim to the climate of violence accompanying protests, especially protests against the brutality of a police unit tasked with combating crime.
It said in Colombia, a reporter for a community radio station was fatally shot while covering an indigenous community protest against the privatisation of local land that was violently dispersed by regular police, riot police and soldiers.
It said in the 2020 annual round-up of journalists who were detained, held hostage or missing at the end of the year, published on 14 December, RSF reported that 387 journalists were currently detained in connection with their work.
“This is virtually the same as a year ago and means the number of journalists detained worldwide is still at a historically high level.”
The report said 2020 had also seen a 35 per cent increase in the number of women journalists arbitrarily detained, and a fourfold increase in arrests of journalists during the first three months of Covid-19’s spread around the world.
It said 14 journalists who were arrested in connection with their coverage of the pandemic were still being held.