Here are definitions of some key terms used in this database.

All Deaths

Motive confirmed: CPJ investigates the death of every journalist to determine whether it is work-related.” We consider a case “confirmed” only if we are reasonably certain that a journalist was murdered in direct reprisal for his or her work; was killed in crossfire during combat situations; or was killed while carrying out a dangerous assignment such as coverage of a street protest. Our database does not include journalists killed in accidents such as car or plane crashes.

Motive unconfirmed: When the motive is unclear, but it is possible that a journalist was killed because of his or her work, CPJ classifies the case as “unconfirmed” and continues to investigate. We regularly reclassify cases based on our ongoing research.

Type of Death: CPJ further categorizes each death in which the motive is confirmed. The categories are: crossfire/combat (a killing on a battlefield or in a military context); dangerous assignment (deaths while covering a demonstration, riot, clashes between rival groups, and mob situations); and murder (the targeted killing of a journalist, whether premeditated or spontaneous, in direct relation to the journalist’s work).


Impunity in Murder Cases: CPJ monitors the law enforcement and judicial process for each confirmed murder case, and we categorize the status of the investigation. The categories are: complete impunity (no convictions have been obtained); partial justice (some but not all of those responsible have been convicted; typically, assassins are convicted but not masterminds); and full justice (everyone responsible is convicted, including both perpetrators and masterminds).

Suspected Perpetrators in Murder Cases: This refers to the person or entity CPJ has identified as most likely responsible. Categories include: political groups (antigovernment parties or combatants, including insurgents and terrorists); government officials (civilian government officials, including police); military officials (members of the government’s military); paramilitary groups (irregular armed forces allied with the government); criminal groups (criminals or members of criminal gangs); mob violence (crowds of people acting together but not otherwise organized); and local residents (individuals inspired to violence by news coverage).

Other Terms

Journalists: CPJ deliberately does not have a rigid definition of who a journalist is. Our cases include staff journalists, freelancers, stringers, bloggers, and citizen journalists — people who cover news on public affairs through any media, including in print, in photographs, on radio, on television, and online. The combination of daily reporting and statistical data forms the basis of our case-driven and long-term advocacy.

Media workers: In 2003, CPJ began documenting the deaths of media support workers in recognition of the vital role they play in newsgathering. These workers include translators, drivers, guards, fixers, and administrative workers.

Taken Captive: This refers to the abduction or seizure of a journalist in the period directly before a murder.

Threatened: This refers to all forms of threats at any time before a journalist was murdered.

Tortured: This means the journalist was physically and demonstrably tortured before being murdered.