by Matthew L. Schafer
The non-profit organization Reports Without Borders (RWB) reported last week that 57 journalists were killed during 2010. Those journalists are joined by 171 who are currently imprisoned, and 114 online activists who are also imprisoned.
The count, which includes only cases where Reporters Without Borders can show that the murder was directly related to the victim’s occupation as a journalist, shows a marked decrease from last year’s count. Last year, 76 journalists were killed, making this year’s tally a 25% decrease from 2009.
Some have attributed this year’s deaths to the drug war along the Mexican border while others cite the war in Afghanistan–especially the Pakistan border region. A reported seven deaths occurred in Mexico, while eleven occurred in Pakistan. Deaths in war zones, however, fell from levels in the past.
“Fewer journalists were killed in war zones than in preceding years,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary General Jean-François Julliard said. “Organized crime groups and militias are [media workers] leading killers worldwide. The challenge now is to rein in this phenomenon.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), another group that tracks journalist deaths, put this year’s number at 44. According to CPJ, the most dangerous countries for journalists include: Pakistan, Iraq, Honduras, Mexico, and Indonesia.
“The killing of 42 journalists in 2010, while a decline over previous years, is still unacceptably high and reflective of the pervasive violence journalists confront around the world,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “…The failure of governments to investigate crimes against the press contributes to a climate of impunity that ultimately fuels further violence.”
Reporters Without Borders also cited an alarming increase in the abductions of journalists. RWB suggests the increased publicity that comes with kidnapping a journalist is a likely cause of this increase.
While murders and kidnappings were common occurences in 2010, the imprisonment of journalists and netizens around the world was even more common. In 2010, almost three hundreds journalists and online activists were imprisoned. Of those, 37 journalists were imprisoned in Iran, 30 in China, and 29 in the African nation of Eritrea. China has also imprisoned 77 netizens, while Iran has imprisoned eight.
The most famous of those imprisoned is likely Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to eleven years in prison by the Chinese government. Xiaobo was imprisoned for his participation in the drafting of Charter 08, a charter calling for political reforms in China. In 2010, Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”