Journalism in 2016: An overwhelming loss of life

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
1 reactions

Turkey_Press.jpgCC BY | Gökcan Göksu

By Taryn Blanchard

The past year has been extremely difficult for journalists fighting to bring us the truth, especially in the most repressive environments across the globe. According to CJFE’s research, 127 journalists were killed in 2016—a dramatic increase from 2015’s 77 deaths recorded by CJFE. These are media workers who were reporting at the time of their deaths, who suffered a history of threats in retribution for their work, or were actively working for a media organization when they died. Some deaths were accidents—such as the 20 Brazilian reporters killed in a plane crash at the end of November—while others were targeted assassinations. In either case, the loss of life within the journalism profession in 2016 was alarming and unacceptable.

Below are a range of resources that, together, help us honour and remember the lives of those lost in 2016:

I – Notable and deadly trends experienced by journalists around the world
II – In memoriam slideshow of journalists killed
III – Infographic: attacks on the press in 2016
IV – Learn more


I. Notable Trends

1. Journalists brave the Middle East—and pay for it with their lives.  A disturbingly high number of journalists continue to be killed year in and year out in armed conflict zones throughout the Middle East, which continues to be the most devastating and dangerous region for (especially local) journalists and other media workers in which to operate. In some instances they were caught in the crossfire of violence between government forces and rebel militants, while in other instances they were directly targeted by all sides.

Afghanistan – 12 media workers killed
Iraq – 11 media workers killed
Syria – 11 media workers killed
Yemen – 9 journalists killed

2. Mass deaths continue to batter the profession. In 2015, the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris that resulted in 12 dead rocked the world and soon after five South Sudanese journalists were killed during an ambush against a convoy travelling in the country. In 2016, the year began with a Taliban bus bombing in Afghanistan that killed seven Tolo TV employees, as well as wounding about two dozen more staffers, and came to a close with the deaths of 20 Brazilian reporters in a plane crash while they were on their way to cover a soccer match in Colombia. These disastrous tolls hit the profession hard and leave especially visible and daunting holes in their wake.

3. Mexico experiences the year’s most journalist murders. In 2015, the five journalists killed in Mexico—including well-known photojournalist Rubén Espinosa and radio journalist Gleydson Carvalho, who was murdered live on the air—were considered a very worrying trend. In 2016, that number was dwarfed by 13 murders, the highest of any country worldwide. Mexico may not be considered a country suffering through an armed conflict, but there is little distinction for the journalists operating amidst its cartel-related violence and widespread political corruption.

4. Assassinations plague Latin America. In addition to the exorbitant number of journalists killed in Mexico in 2016, countries throughout the rest of Latin America are also becoming ever more dangerous for journalists. Violence, corruption and impunity for crimes against journalists plague most of the region’s countries, while press protection mechanisms fail to avert deaths. As a result, radio hosts, television presenters, community reporters and Internet bloggers—frequently living far from major cities—are directly targeted by ‘sicarios’ (hitmen) for their work to expose government corruption and report on the criminal activities of cartels, maras and other armed groups across the region.

Brazil – 4 media workers killed
Guatemala – 6 media workers killed
Honduras – 3 media workers killed
Mexico – 13 media workers killed

5. Remember the women. There is abundant evidence that women are underrepresented in news coverage and, in many countries, marginalized from the journalism professionalism itself. Unfortunately, however, they are not immune from being targeted for death. Seven women journalists lost their lives in 2016, in four countries. Only one of those killed was more than 34 years old.

Afghanistan – Mariam Ibrahimi (22), Mehri Azizi (22), Zainab Mirzaee (25)
Burkina Faso – Leila Alaoui (34)
Mexico – Anabel Flores Salazar (32), Zamira Esther Bautista (44)
Somalia – Sagal Salad Osman (24)



II. Journalists Killed in 2016

III. Attacks on the Press in 2016



IV. Learn more about journalists we have lost in 2016

There are more resources that collect statistics and reports about the journalists lost each year. They offer different criteria and methodologies—providing researchers, advocates and other readers invaluable sources of information.

CJFE: Interactive Map of Journalists Killed
Committee to Protect Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
Reporters Without Borders

Help us fight for press freedom and freedom of expression. Funds raised through membership and donations support CJFE’s critical work, including our Journalists in Distress program, which provides emergency assistance to journalists around the world whose lives are at risk because of their work.

Taryn Blanchard is CJFE's Programs Coordinator.

What do you think?

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  • Rosetta Bernier
    commented 2022-06-23 08:15:58 -0400
    With journalism increasingly funded by corporations and social media companies, we have lost sight of what journalism should be. We are now expected to produce content that is not only entertaining but also relevant and trustworthy. This is not just a new challenge for journalists; it is an existential threat to our profession. I am writing my essay on it by taking help from source material. It’s not the kind of danger where you can take precautions and stay safe, but it’s like there are bad people everywhere and they want to do bad things to us. They would kill us if they could. There is no way to avoid it because there are so many people out there with guns and bombs and explosives who want to kill us for no reason at all.