Two narco-states, a near failed state and the U.S. These were among the deadliest places to practice journalism in 2018, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which added the U.S. to the worst offenders list for the first time in the annual roundup’s 23-year history.
The home of the first amendment ranked in the top five most lethal countries for members of the press, behind Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico and Yemen, while tying with India.
Six journalists lost their lives in the U.S. over the past year. Four, as well as a sales accountant, were brutally killed when a gunman opened fire on the Capital Gazette newsroom in June in the deadliest single attack on the media in recent history. Two other U.S. journalists, a cameraman and TV anchor, were killed by a falling tree in May while covering a storm in North Carolina.
RSF’s report cites 2018 as the most dangerous year on record for journalists, who faced an “unprecedented level of hostility.”
Hostage-takings, imprisonment and disappearances all increased. In total, RSF recorded 80 journalists killed this year, 61% of whom were targeted in retaliation for their work. Another 348 were detained, and 60 held hostage.
“Journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018,” the press watchdog said in a statement.
While RSF named Afghanistan the deadliest country for journalists this year, with 13 deaths, 45% of the worldwide murders the group recorded occurred outside of conflict zones. These included the high-profile killings of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and Slovakian data journalist Ján Kuciak. Their shocking murders, as well as the high number of cases in which reportage led to prolonged incarceration, such as with Myanmar journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have demonstrated “the lengths to which press freedom’s enemies are prepared to go,” RSF said.
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The group’s findings underscore the rising animosity journalists across the world encountered in the past year, a problem that has been enflamed by world leaders’ and politicians’ invectives against the media, including the frequent “enemy of the people” salvos fired off by President Donald Trump.
“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,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF’s Secretary-General.
“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,” he added.
In a separate report issued Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists found the number of journalists killed in reprisals for their work nearly doubled worldwide compared to 2017. As of Dec. 14, at least 34 journalists were singled out for murder.
The New York-based organization said the uptick in killings, combined with the sustained high number of jailings, adds up “to a profound global crisis of press freedom.”
Last week, TIME recognized four journalists and one news organization targeted for their work — Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md. — as the Person of the Year.
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