2012: A Deadly Year for Free Expression

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 is considered to be one of the deadliest years for journalists on record. At least 107 journalists were killed in the course of their work, whether in direct retaliation for their reporting, while on assignment, or while working in conflict zones. One of the reasons for the increase in killings from last year is the deadly conflict in Syria, which accounts for almost a third of all journalists killed. Somalia, Pakistan and Mexico also remain three of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

Some Conclusions:

There was a ‘spike’ in the number of deaths in 2012. Reporters without Borders (RSF) said there was a 33% increase in the number of journalists killed as compared to 2011. The major factor in this spike appears to be Syria, where approximately 33 journalists were killed by both opposition and government forces. It should be noted that the number of journalists killed in Syria varies widely from report to report due to the challenges of gaining reliable information from within the country, and discrepancies as to how and when to include citizen journalists and bloggers.

Some of the most dangerous countries for journalists – Somalia (18), Pakistan (8) and Mexico (7) – remain at the top of the list because their governments have done little to tackle the ongoing problem of impunity. Killers of journalists in these countries almost always remain free and unpunished. The International Press Institute (IPI) stated that Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud “has promised to create a task force to investigate journalists killings.” However, until the perpetrators are brought to justice the culture of impunity remains.

Troublingly, we also saw a rise in the numbers of journalists killed in Brazil (6) in 2012. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says that these journalists were based in small towns, working for small media outlets. Like many journalists who are targeted, they received threats beforehand.

What CJFE is doing

CJFE believes that one of the major contributors to the numbers of journalists killed is the problem of impunity. This is a widespread problem that flourishes in Somalia, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines, among others. In these countries, where there is no justice, it is not only the murdered journalist who is silenced, but also other journalists who are afraid to speak out for fear they might be next.

CJFE participates in two international campaigns to draw attention to the problem of impunity. IFEX members created the International Day to End Impunity on November 23 – a day chosen in memory of the terrible massacre of 32 journalists and media workers in Maguindanao, Philippines in 2009. Here, as with so many other killings of journalists, the killers have still not been brought to justice (despite many charges there has not yet been a single conviction).

CJFE is also participating in the CPJ-led campaign Speak Justice Now. This year-long initiative calls on people around the world to raise their voices against impunity.
CJFE records the number of journalists that are killed or targeted in the line of duty because of their reporting or affiliation with a news organization. Our statistics are compiled from the reports of more than 70 member groups that make up the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the International Press Institute (IPI). Each organisation uses different methodologies resulting in different numbers, but the conclusions that can be drawn from each of these reports are similar.

However, free expression depends on more than just the safety of journalists. IFEX has produced a timeline of some of the world’s most pivotal moments of free expression in 2012, which you can view below.

We hope that 2013 will see progress in the fight to end impunity and greater free expression for all.

Additional Reading

2012 deadliest year for journalists | International Press Institute (IPI)
Digital rights activism around the world in 2012 | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Journalist deaths spike in 2012 due to Syria, Somalia | Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
News providers decimated in 2012 | Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Review of state surveillance around the globe in 2012 | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Thanks to Jackie Marchildon for her work compiling statistics on journalists killed in 2012.