A total of 80 journalists were killed this year, 348 are currently in prison, and 60 are being held hostage, according to the annual worldwide round-up of deadly violence and abusive treatment of journalists released today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which shows an unprecedented level of hostility towards media personnel.
The RSF round-up figures have risen in all categories. Murders, imprisonment, hostage-taking and enforced disappearances have all increased. Journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018.
This year has been marked by the number of journalists in all categories who were killed in connection with their work, a figure which increased by 8% to 80, and by the 15% rise in the number of professional journalists killed, from 55 in 2017 to 63 this year. This number had been declining over the previous three years.
The widely reported murders of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the young Slovak data journalist Ján Kuciak highlighted the lengths to which press freedom’s enemies are prepared to go. More than half of the journalists killed in 2018 were deliberately targeted.
“Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists.
“Amplified by social networks, which bear heavy responsibility in this regard, these expressions of hatred legitimize violence, thereby undermining journalism, and democracy itself, a bit more every day.”
With the release of its latest World Press Freedom Index in April, RSF had already expressed alarm over an increased level of hostility towards the media encouraged by politicians, as well as efforts by authoritarian regimes to export their alternative vision of journalism.
The number of journalists detained worldwide at the end of the year – 348 – is up from 326 at this time last year. As in 2017, more than half of the world’s imprisoned journalists are being held in just five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. China remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with 60 currently held, of whom three quarters are non-professional journalists.