Countries at peace deadlier for journalists – French media group
MANILA, Philippines — More reporters were killed this year in countries considered to be “at peace,” including three in the Philippines who were shot dead by unidentified men on motorcycles, highlighting the continued perils faced by the media in the middle of a pandemic.
According to the Reporters Without Borders’ (Reporters Sans Frontieres, or RSF) annual roundup report, there were 50 cases of journalists who were killed in the line of duty this year, a little less than the 53 cases in 2019.
However, the RSF noted that the numbers were still “very similar … although fewer journalists worked [in] the field this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Out of every 10 journalists killed in 2020, seven were in countries not at war, confirming a trend that started four years ago—there are increasingly fewer journalists killed in war zones.
7 out of 10
“It is now countries considered to be ‘at peace’ that are proving to be the deadliest for journalists,” RSF said. “In 2020, nearly seven out of every 10 journalists killed lost their lives in countries ‘at peace,’ whereas in 2016, it was only four out of every 10.”
The RSF’s annual roundup reflects those who were killed between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15.
It distinguishes between “journalists who were deliberately targeted because of their work and those who were killed while reporting in the field without being specifically targeted,” according to its methodology page.
In the Philippines, Rex Pepino of Original Energy FM 93.7, Balangibog radio host Jobert Bercasio and Northern Watch commentator Virgilio Maganes were gunned down by unknown assailants on motorcycles on May 20, Sept. 14 and Nov. 20, respectively.
The RSF noted that the creation in 2016 of President Duterte’s Presidential Task Force on Media Security did little to curb the number of journalists killed. Another global journalist watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), had placed the Philippines among the Top 7 deadliest countries in its annual Impunity Index released last week.
“Mr. Duterte and his government claimed to make progress in combating impunity, but in reality have fallen short, failing to prosecute the masterminds of murders and undermining the press with hostile rhetoric,” said Jennifer Dunham, CPJ editorial director.The RSF report noted that many of the reporters killed worldwide were working on sensitive subjects. Four had been investigating organized crime groups while 10 were investigating cases of local corruption or misuse of public funds.
Three, meanwhile, had been working on environmental issues such as illegal mining or land-grabbing.
Growing civil unrest and extreme violence in protest has also proven dangerous for the media this year, the RSF added, with seven killed while covering protests in Iraq, Nigeria and Colombia.
By the end of the year, 387 other journalists remained in detention because of their work, the RSF said.
Most of the arrests happened during the first four months of the pandemic, in countries that tried to curb information about how authorities were dealing with COVID-19.
“This is virtually the same as a year ago and means the number of journalists detained worldwide is still at a historically high level,” it added.
This year also saw a 35-percent increase in the number of women journalists detained arbitrarily.
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