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Journalist group says 94 working in media killed in 2018, topped by Afghanistan

Summer School of Journalism. (gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says the number of killings of working journalists and news staff increased in 2018, ending an overall decline experienced in recent years, with Afghanistan topping the danger list.

The trade association said in its annual report released on December 31 that 94 journalists and media workers died in targeted killings, bomb attacks, and conflict crossfire in 2018.

That was an increase from the 82 deaths reported in 2017, the Brussels-based group said.

The toll this year was the highest since 121 people working for news organizations were killed in 2012.

Since the IFJ began its annual count in 1990, the peak year was 2006, when 155 work-related killings were reported.

The deadliest country in 2018 was Afghanistan, where 16 of the killings occurred. That was followed by Mexico with 11, Yemen with nine, and Syria with eight.

Nine of those slain in Afghanistan were killed in April by a suicide attack against a group of journalists in Kabul. Two others were killed in June when a second bomb exploded after they rushed to cover a bombing at a wrestling training center in Kabul.

“Journalists are targeted because they are witnesses,” IFJ President Philippe Leruth told the Associated Press. “And the result of this, when a journalist or many journalists are killed in a country, you see an increase of self-censorship.”

The United States soared to sixth on the list, with five killings, tied with Somalia and Pakistan. On June 28, a gunman in Annapolis, Maryland, fatally shot four journalists and a sales associate in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper. The man had threatened the publication after losing a defamation lawsuit.

The most high-profile journalist slaying was that of Saudi opposition writer Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a U.S. resident.

Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, was killed by a team of Saudi agents in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi Arabia has denied reports that the crown prince was linked to the murder that sparked global condemnations.

“Jamal Khashoggi was a very well-known figure, but you know, the most shocking statistic is that we know that nine of 10 journalist murders remain unpunished in the world,” the IFJ’s Leruth said.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on December 18 said 2018 was a year of “unprecedented” hostility toward journalists around the world.

More than half of the journalists killed during the year were “deliberately targeted.”

The reports reinforce findings of the media rights group Committee to Protect Journalists, which said in October that 324 journalists during the past decade had been “silenced through murder worldwide” and that no perpetrators had been convicted in more than 85 percent of those cases.