Impunity in journalist killings muzzles press

CPJ Impunity Index: Nigeria enters ranking; Somalia, Pakistan, Brazil and Mexico persist

New York, May 2, 2013–Unpunished, deadly violence continues to plague the press globally and has notably increased in Nigeria, according to the 2013 Impunity Index, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual ranking of countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free.

“In countries where authorities fail to deliver justice in the killing of journalists, the result is more killings, while journalists try to survive by exercising self-censorship,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Nigeria’s entry on the index suggests that violence is beginning to limit coverage of crucial issues, posing a grave threat to the country’s democracy. The government must exert the necessary political will to solve these crimes.”

Nigeria appears on the index–published to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3–for the first time. With five unsolved murders since 2009, Nigeria ranks 11th of the 12 worst countries for impunity, Nigeria is one of two African countries on the list. The other is Somalia, where 12 journalists were murdered in 2012 alone despite relative calm in Mogadishu. Deteriorating security accompanied by a lack of justice was also seen in Pakistan, where authorities have failed to prosecute a single suspect in the 23 journalist murders over the past decade. In Brazil, where provincial reporters have proved especially vulnerable, the impunity rating has risen despite the government’s stated commitment to justice.

Ten countries have appeared on the index every year since it was launched in 2008, highlighting the challenge of reversing entrenched impunity. In Pakistan and the Philippines combined, at least nine witnesses and people connected to journalist murder investigations have been killed or died in suspicious circumstances in the past 10 years, CPJ research shows.

“Governments that are committed to solving these cases must guarantee witness protection,” Simon said. “A U.N. plan to combat deadly anti-press violence provides a pivotal opportunity for governments to take decisive steps to deliver justice.”

A decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq remains the worst nation on CPJ’s index, with more than 90 unresolved murders. CPJ found that journalist murders slowed there, as well as in Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Afghanistan, but there are few successful prosecutions in any of these countries. Colombia has had modest success in solving murders. Alarmingly, government and military officials are considered the leading suspects in 26 percent of murder cases on the index.

The index calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population. It covers the period January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2012. Only nations with five or more unsolved cases are listed.

In 2012, CPJ launched Speak Justice, a digital campaign to garner citizen support in demanding justice for murdered journalists.


Note to Editors: The 2013 Impunity Index is available in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish on

CPJ’s annual Impunity Index, first published in 2008, calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population. CPJ defines murder as a deliberate attack against a specific journalist in relation to the victim’s work. The 2013 index includes murders that occurred from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2012, and that remain unsolved. Only nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained. CPJ’s Impunity Index is compiled as part of the organization’s Global Campaign Against Impunity, which is supported by the Adessium Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and the Open Society Foundations.

Media contact: Advocacy and Communications Associate Magnus Ag; [email protected] / +1 212-300-9007