Iraq, most dangerous place for journalists: study

Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
September 20, 2006

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Journalists are being killed at a pace of more than three a month worldwide, with Iraq the deadliest place for media to work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Wednesday.

A new CPJ study showed that 580 journalists have been killed over the last 15 years primarily because of their work, with government and military officials believed to be responsible for many of those deaths.

The deadliest countries for journalists over the past 15 years have been Iraq, which tallied 78 deaths, Algeria with 60 killed, Russia with 42 dead and Colombia with 37 dead, according to CPJ, a New York-based non-profit organization that promotes press freedom.

So far in 2006, 31 journalists have been killed — a rate of better than three a month through mid-September — with 20 of those deaths occurring in Iraq, CPJ said on its Web site.

In 2005, there were 47 confirmed deaths, 22 of which were Iraqi journalists covering the current war. According to the CPJ, 60 Iraqi journalists have been killed since the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.

“Journalism has become quite a dangerous profession,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in an interview.

“There has been greater awareness of how dangerous it is, especially with the Iraq war. Iraqi journalists have become increasingly vulnerable,” he added.

About 85 percent of deaths recorded since 1992, the first year CPJ began keeping records, involved local journalists as opposed to foreign correspondents.

CPJ’s data also revealed that the seven out of 10 of those deaths were of journalists specifically targeted because their reporting was critical of the government.

“Time and again, the very governments that journalists sought to check with their reporting are believed to be behind the slayings,” the report said.

Government and military officials were believed to be responsible for some 27 percent of journalist murders over the past 15 years, CPJ’s analysis shows.

Paramilitary groups, aligned with government security forces in nations such as Colombia and Rwanda, meanwhile, were suspected to be behind 8 percent of the killings.

The death of Norbert Zongo, editor of the weekly L’Independent in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in December 1998 was a case in point. Gunmen sprayed automatic rifle fire at a vehicle carrying Zongo, his brother and two companions, the report said.

Many in Burkina Faso believe officials in President Blaise Compaore’s government were responsible for Zongo’s death, who had investigated relentlessly on alleged torture and murder.

CPJ’s findings also showed that print reporters faced greater danger than most other media jobs, making up nearly 60 percent of recorded deaths. However, in countries that are reliant on broadcast news such as the Philippines and India, radio commentators and television journalists were most vulnerable.

© 2006 Reuters