Geneva, 15 December 2014 (PEC) — According to the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) annual report 2014, at least 128 journalists have been killed so far around the world in the course of the year. This figure is very close to the tally in 2013.
PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen said that 2014 was terrible for journalists. New conflicts for media workers opened in Ukraine, in the Israeli assault on Gaza, which led to the killings of many media workers, and in Syria, the situation was unprecedented with the beheading of journalists recorded in video clips.
Gaza leads the list, with 16 journalists killed by Israel during the Operation Protective Edge, followed by Syria (13 journalists killed) and Pakistan (12 killed).
Iraq comes in fourth place among the most dangerous places for media work, with 10 journalists killed, many of whom lost their lives following the military offensive of the Islamic state.
Ukraine takes fifth place, with 9 journalists killed. In Ukraine, journalists from both sides of the conflict were killed, among them 4 Russian journalists.
Mexico ranks 6th with 8 journalists killed; followed by Afghanistan with 6 killed; then Honduras, with 5 killed; and Somalia with 5. Brazil and the Central African Republic hold the tenth position with 4 journalists killed in each country.
Three journalists were killed in the following countries: Cambodia, Guinea (during a media mission covering the Ebola outbreak), Paraguay and the Philippines.
Two journalists were killed in the following countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, India, Libya, Peru, Turkey and Yemen.
One journalist was killed in each of 10 countries: Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Dominican Republic, Egypt, Lebanon, Nigeria, Panama, Russia, Salvador, and Saudi Arabia.
Middle East on top of the list
By region, the Middle East was the most violent, with 46 journalists killed, followed by Asia with 31, Latin America with 27, Sub-Saharan Africa with 14 and Europe with 10.
Compared to 2013, when 129 journalists were killed, the figures are very close. The figure for the past nine years during which the PEC has been keeping track, stands at more than 1000 journalists (1038, to be precise).
During the past five years (2010 to 2014), the figure stands at a total of 614 journalists killed, which is an average of 123 annually, or 2.4 per week.
The most dangerous five countries during the past five years have been Syria, 69 journalists killed; Pakistan 63; Mexico 50; Iraq 44; and Somalia 39.
Then comes Brazil, 31 killed; Honduras, 30 killed; Philippines, 29 killed; India 21; and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) 21.
Lempen stressed that this appalling tally is clearly due to violent armed conflicts that continue and find no political solution while hostage-taking has become more frequent.
“It is positive that governments have committed themselves much more than several years ago to reinforcing safety for journalists through the adoption of United Nations resolutions. One can also note the launch of numerous initiatives by NGOs and international organizations,” added the PEC Secretary-General.
Nonetheless, impunity and non-respect of international law by some parties continue in the field. “This is why the PEC has repeatedly called for an international instrument to protect journalists. The political will in the most concerned countries, necessary to shedding light on the murders and bringing those responsible to justice, is lacking, and in conflict countries it is often impossible to launch an enquiry,” says Lempen.
“The United Nations, thus, must create a follow-up mechanism at the international level if we are to fight effectively against impunity. This should be the mission of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva,” he declared.
He added that, as the problem of media access has escalated, many media have stopped sending their journalists because of the extreme risks. As a result, coverage of such conflicts occupies less space in the media and attracts less public attention, a matter which is of extreme importance to exert pressure to solve such conflicts and for financing humanitarian aid.
For the president of the PEC, Hedayat Abdel Nabi, whereas more than 100 journalists per year are still being killed, the international community is watching the crimes without dealing with the core problem, which requires a protection instrument. All initiatives are welcome, but, as the PEC’s efforts approach their second decade, the question is when the United Nations member states will sit down around a negotiating table to discuss the draft convention to protect journalists, she declared.
It should be noted that in its reporting since 2006, the PEC has taken into account journalists intentionally targeted in the exercise of their profession as well as those killed accidentally and otherwise unintentionally. It is, in fact, very difficult to determine the causes of death, for accounts can vary highly depending on the sources.
For 2014, the PEC estimates that around half of the journalists killed were intentionally targeted by governments, armed groups and criminal gangs. But this is only a rough figure in the absence of independent investigations.