Corruption Reporting, A Leading Cause of Journalist Killings, Says IPI Report

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John Yearwood, Chair of the IPI Executive Board
John Yearwood, Chair of the IPI Executive Board

The Vienna, Austria, based International Press Institute (IPI), in its new analysis of Death Watch figures launched on May 3, 2018 to mark the 2018 World Press Freedom Day, has identified corruption reporting as a leading cause of journalists’ killings in the past 12 months.

IPI notes that in the past year, 88 journalists, including six women, have been killed around the world. Details on the death of journalists recorded from 1997 up to 2018 are available on the Death Watch page. Of the 88 deaths recorded in the last year, as many as 46 of them are said to have been killed in targeted attacks, in most cases because they were investigating and exposing corruption.

Asides from the 46 identified as targeted attacks, 33 were identified as journalists covering conflict and 9 as those who were on assignment.

In its further analysis of these statistics, the IPI emphasises that within the first four months of 2018 alone, 32 journalists, including a female journalist in El Salvador, were killed resulting in an average of almost eight deaths a month. The analysis also broke down the last eight months of 2017, explaining that as many as 55 journalists – amongst them five women – were killed, mostly as a result of targeted attacks.

Among the cases listed was that of Ján Kuciak, a reporter with the news website Aktuality.sk, and his girlfriend whose bodies were found by the police at his home in Slovakia on February 22, 2018. Kuciak is stated to have been investigating corruption in government with his reporting exposing links between an Italian crime mafia and some members of the Slovak government which was published after his death. This killing eventually led to the resignation of the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Other prominent cases highlighted were of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bomb explosion in Malta in October 2017; Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead in September outside her home in India; and Javier Valdez Cárdenas, a well-known Mexican investigative journalist who was gunned down last May.

The International Press Institute noted that while the killings in Europe have attracted global condemnation and growing demands for the arrest of those responsible, dozens of cases around the world that have escaped international attention. Its analysis of the data from the last 12 months highlighted that the pace of investigation into most cases of targeted killings has been slow with only a few suspects being arrested or charged for these murders.

Latin America emerged as one of the largest killing fields, where journalists covering drug trafficking and political corruption are particularly vulnerable. 12 journalists in Latin America were recorded as killed in as many months, and Mexico was noted to be the deadliest place in the world to work in the media.

The majority of journalist death related to armed conflicts were also identified to have occurred in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan with two journalists covering a protest in Gaza being killed by Israeli snipers in April 2018.

The IPI Executive Director, Barbara Trionfi, on World Press Freedom Day 2018 stated that “Unless governments take firm action and demonstrate that there will be no impunity, journalists will continue to be targets of threats, torture and assassination’’

She emphasised the need for increased protection for journalists explaining that “The killing of a journalist remains the most brutal and effective way of silencing the news” and “People have a right to know what is happening around them and journalists – whether covering corruption or reporting from conflict zones – shed light on that information. The Death Watch tally over the past year represents a staggering loss not only for the victims’ family, friends, and colleagues, but also for democracy itself.”

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, journalists and media executives, has tallied journalists deliberately targeted because of their profession and those who lost their lives while on assignment since 1997.

The Institute has been working for the protection and safety of journalists since 1950 and has consistently urged governments to uphold democratic values by improving the safety of journalists. According to IPI’s Death Watch project, as many as 1,801 journalists have died in the line of duty since 1997. The bloodiest year of the past two decades being 2012, when 133 journalists lost their lives. A year later, in 2013, 121 were killed.