With three of its journalists among 81 media professionals killed worldwide in 2017, Nigeria ranked among countries around the world with the highest numbers of media killings during the year, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
In a statement released from its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on December 31, 2017, the world’s largest organization of journalists, however, warned that there was no room for complacency despite the fact that 2017 witnessed the lowest number of killings of journalists in 10 years.
The IFJ welcomed the fall from the 2016 tally of 93 to 81 in 2017 but cautioned that unprecedented numbers of journalists were jailed, forced to flee, that self-censorship was widespread and that impunity for the killings, harassment, attacks and threats against independent journalism was running at epidemic levels.
The “IFJ’s Killed List”, published on December 31, 2017, details the 81 journalists and media staff killed in targeted killings, car bomb attacks and cross fire incidents around the world during 2017. The number is 12 down from last year’s death tally of 93, making 2017 among the least deadly in a decade.
The IFJ welcomed “the drop in loss of life among journalists and media staff, partly due to there being fewer flash points in previously highly volatile places and partly to the loss of ground by some armed groups which reduced journalists’ proximity to the frontline in combat zones.”
Warning against complacency, IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We welcome the fact that this year has been the least deadly in a decade for journalists but there is no room for complacency. In Syria, Mexico and India killings continue at frightening levels, more women journalists have been murdered, impunity for killings still runs at over 90 per cent, self-censorship remains widespread and more journalists are in jail than at any time in recent years.”
According to him, “In the face of this increasing targeting of media workers, the IFJ is committed to strengthening its work with unions around the world to deliver more safety training, affordable insurance for local journalists who bear the brunt of the attacks and above all a commitment to campaign actively for those who attack journalists – be they state actors, paramilitary organisations or corporate interests – to be brought to justice”.
IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: “We welcome the reduction for the third year in a row in the loss of life suffered by journalists and media staff around the world during 2017,” adding that “While this represents a downward trend, the levels of violence in journalism remain unacceptably high. We find it most disturbing that this decrease cannot be linked to any measure by governments to tackle the impunity for these crimes targeting journalists. Instead, the patterns don’t change in the most violent countries such as Mexico and India.”
The IFJ noted that the Media remain in the grip of extreme violence from insurgents in Afghanistan and the ruthless reign of organised crime groups in Mexico and that there is also a growing concern about attacks on journalists motivated by violent populism in India, the world’s largest democracy, an intolerance which it said led to the high profile killing of Gauri Lankesh, a prominent woman journalist who was well known for her independent reporting.
It stressed that no region of the world was spared the scourge of violence in journalism in 2017, including Western democracies where men of violence proved the lengths to which they are prepared to go in ensuring their criminal enterprises remain shielded from media scrutiny.
The IFJ cited the cases of two women journalists, Kim Wall of Denmark and investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta, who paid with their lives for their pursuit of the truth, adding that together with Gauri Lankesh, they were among the eight women journalists killed in 2017.
The organization said faced with this grim reality, the it was renewing its commitment to lifting the shadow of violence on journalism through addressing impunity by proposing a new international convention on the safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals.
According to the IFJ, the Convention would seek to provide a more effective international means for journalists and others to challenge the lack of action by governments on tackling impunity and bringing the killers of media workers to justice.
IFJ General Secretary Bellanger insisted that “The safety crisis in journalism does not allow the status quo and there is a desperate need for a new instrument which would finally make possible the implementation of numerous existing resolutions on media protection,” adding that “We urge the adoption of this new convention to sustain other on-going efforts to further promote the safety of journalists.”
According to the IFJ, its statistics on journalists and media staff killed in 2017 showed that the Asia Pacific had the highest killing tally with 26, followed by the Arab World and Middle East on 24 killings, The Americas with 17, African still at eight and Europe with five killings.
It said as of December 29, 2017, it had recorded the following cases of killings: Targeted, bomb attacks and cross-fire killings: 81; Accidents and Natural Disasters Related Deaths : 0; with a Total Number of Deaths at: 81, made up of 73 men and eight women.
The countries with the highest numbers of media killings are: Mexico: 13; Afghanistan: 11; Iraq: 11; Syria: 10; India: six; The Philippines: four; Pakistan: four; Nigeria: three; Somalia: three; and Honduras: three.