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More journalists killed in war zones than in peace zones for first time in five years

In 2023, a total of 45 journalists were killed in connection with their work, 16 fewer than in 2022 despite the war in the Middle East, a report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows. In 2012 and 2013, more than 140 journalists were killed, mainly due to the wars in Syria and Iraq. In Gaza, at least 13 journalists have been killed this year because of their work as journalists since the war began between Israel and Hamas, a total that rises to 56 if you include all journalists killed in the Gaza Strip, whether or not in the line of their work. For the first time in five years, more journalists have been killed in war zones than in peace zones. 

“As UN member states gather in Geneva to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Press Institute (IPI) global network calls on states and the international community “to take urgent and concrete action to protect freedom of the press and journalists’ safety — and to recommit to upholding the fundamental human rights and principles enshrined in the UDHR”.

“This anniversary comes at an especially dark time for journalists around the world. An unprecedented number of journalists have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israeli airstrikes and ground raids into the territory over the last eight weeks, while Israeli strikes have also targeted journalists in southern Lebanon”, IPI says.

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Worldwide, 521 journalists are currently detained on arbitrary grounds linked to their profession (down 8.4% from 2022), the RSF report says.

“Among civilians in Gaza, journalists are paying a heavy price. We’ve noted that the number of journalists killed in connection with their work is very high: at least 13 in such a tiny territory. We have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to establish the facts and to what point journalists were knowingly targeted”, says Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General.

RSF says that the gradual decline in the number of journalists killed in connection with their work over the past five years can be explained in part by security improvements for journalists and the end of deadly spikes in Iraq and Syria, where nearly 600 journalists were killed in the line of duty from 2003 to 2022. 

“In times of peace, stronger measures to protect journalistic work, especially through legislative means, and mechanisms to combat impunity would seem to account for the less deadly toll.”

“Although the number of journalists killed in Latin America has fallen significantly, from 26 in 2022 to six in 2023, working as a journalist in this region is still not safe, as recent abductions and armed attacks in Mexico demonstrate.” 

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“The record level of violence registered in Latin America in 2022 has led to self-censorship, resulting in the proliferation of information black holes in the region, where organised crime and corruption top the list of topics that can cost journalists their lives”, RSF says.

This year, 23 journalists have been killed in the course of their reporting in war zones, according to the RSF report. 

Most of them – 17 – were killed in the war between Israel and Hamas (including 13 in Gaza), during which 63 journalists lost their lives in total (including 56 in Gaza) if we include journalists killed in circumstances unproven to be related to their duties. 

For the first time in five years, more journalists have been killed in war zones than in peace zones.

A total of 521 journalists are jailed versus 569 in 2022. China is yet again the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with 121 media professionals locked up in its prisons  (including 12 in Hong Kong and 42 in Xinjiang), RSF says. 

“This is nearly a quarter (23%) of the total number of journalists detained worldwide”, the RSF report stresses.

“Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus, with its increasingly repressive policies, is now one of the trio of countries detaining the most journalists: it is detaining 39 (or seven more than in 2022).”

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