What is the most dangerous country in which to be a journalist?
In 2015, to date, the statistics point to France with the Charlie Hebdo massacre claiming the lives of 8.
Although the scale of that attack in January brought the world’s attention to the risks faced by journalists and the importance of their profession, the deaths of journalists continue, often unnoticed. 2 million people lined Parisian streets with world leaders attending to show solidarity with the fundamental belief that suppression of opinion and journalistic freedom was intolerable.
But what comes next?
At the start of this year the deaths of a Mexican and a Yemini journalist preceded the Charlie Hebdo attack, and in the same month as the Paris massacre 5 South Sudanese journalists were killed when unidentified gunmen ambushed an official convoy in South Sudan’s Western Bahr al Ghazal state. There wasn’t a rally or demonstration for these journalists however. Nor for the Bangladeshi, Ukrainian, Syrian, Guatemalan or Brazilian who also lost lives as journalists this year.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organisation that promotes press freedom worldwide, presents a number of detailed statistics and information on its website in its advocacy for recognition of the dangers faced by journalists around the globe.
In 2015 to date, 23 journalists have lost their lives in the pursuit of their work. The list reads:
France, 8 deaths
South Sudan, 5 deaths
Bangladesh, 2 deaths
Syria, 2 deaths
Guatemala, 1 death
Brazil, 1 death
Yemen, 1 death
Ukraine, 1 death
Mexico, 1 death
Democratic Republic of Congo, 1 death
With CPJ’s records going back to 1992, the reports on the numbers killed are even more disturbing given that conflict and war zones are not exclusively the territories that journalists are killed, or murdered in.
The Philippines has a dismal record of protection for its native journalists with 77 deaths recorded in CPJ’s index and other nations also fare poorly. Russia; 56 journalist deaths. Brazil – now a major world economic power – 31 deaths; Turkey, with aspirations of accession to the EU, has lost 20; Tajikistan, 17.
Critically, the summation by the CPJ on the importance of press freedom why we should all care when a government, an army, a criminal organisation, a religion, or any individual is permitted to suppress truthful reporting:
“Without a free press, few other human rights are attainable. A strong press freedom environment encourages the growth of a robust civil society, which leads to stable, sustainable democracies and healthy social, political, and economic development.”
Speaking on the incompatibility of good governance without a free and independent reporting, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon notes, “Terror creates fear and fear leads to silence. And silence means censorship. The issue extends far beyond the journalistic profession and harms all of society, which is unable to make informed decisions because of the obstacles the press faces in its daily work. An uninformed society is without doubt a less transparent and less democratic one.”