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65 journalists killed worldwide in 2017 - 326 in prison

Published:Tuesday | December 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) annual roundup of violence and abuses against journalists worldwide has revealed that 65 journalists were killed in 2017, making the year the least deadly for journalists in more than a decade. However, the number of women journalists killed in 2017 has doubled.

Some 326 journalists are currently in prison, and 54 are held hostage.

The 65 journalists who were killed were either fatally injured in the course of their work (for example, in an artillery bombardment) or were murdered because their reporting angered someone. The murdered reporters were the majority - 60 per cent of the total figure.

"Although these figures are alarming, 2017 has been the least deadly year for professional journalists (50 killed) in 14 years," RSF said. "Journalists are, of course, fleeing countries such as Syria, Yemen, and Libya that have become too dangerous, but RSF has also observed a growing awareness of the need to protect journalists. The UN has passed several resolutions on the safety of journalists since 2006 and many news organisations have adopted safety procedures."

"The fall does not apply to deaths of women journalists, which have doubled. Ten have been killed in 2017, compared to five in 2016," said RSF. "Most of these victims were experienced and combative investigative reporters. Despite threats, they continued to investigate and expose cases of corruption. The victims include Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, Gauri Lankesh in India, and Miroslava Breach Velducea in Mexico."

Some countries that are not at war have become almost as dangerous for journalists as war zones in 2017: 46 per cent of the deaths occurred in countries where no overt war is taking place, as against 30 per cent in 2016. There were almost as many deaths in Mexico (11) as in Syria, which was the deadliest country for journalists in 2017, with 12 killed.

Investigative journalists probing corruption are targeted

"Investigative journalists working on major stories such as corruption and environmental scandals play a fundamental watchdog role and have become targets for those who are angered by their reporting," RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire said. "This alarming situation underlines the need to provide journalists with more protection at a time when both the challenges of news reporting and the dangers are becoming increasingly internationalised."

Like the death toll, the number of journalists in detention has also fallen. The total of 326 journalists in prison on December 1, 2017, was six per cent fewer than on the same date in 2016. Despite the overall downward trend, there is an unusually high number of detained journalists in certain countries, in particular Russia and Morocco, that did not previously number among the worst jailers of professional journalists. Nonetheless, around half of the total number of imprisoned journalists are being held in just five countries. China and Turkey are still the world's two biggest prisons for journalists.

Armed non-state groups such as Islamic State and the Houthis in Yemen are holding 54 journalists hostage. Almost three quarters of these hostages come from the ranks of local journalists, who are usually paid little and often have to take enormous risks. The foreign journalists currently held hostage were all kidnapped in Syria, but little is known about their present location.