FAQs on CPJ data

Why do you call some deaths “confirmed” and others “unconfirmed”?

CPJ’s focus is on press freedom violations, so we distinguish between those we are reasonably certain were killed because of their journalism [motive confirmed] and those who may have been killed for journalism or for another reason [motive unconfirmed]. In situations of war such as Israel-Gaza and Ukraine, CPJ documents all journalists whose deaths and journalistic credentials we are able to verify as “confirmed” while we investigate the circumstances of their killing.

If they were clearly not killed for their journalism, or died in an accident/weather event or because of illness, we do not include them in our database.

What criteria does CPJ use to decide whether a killing should be “confirmed”?

CPJ researchers investigate every journalist’s death to determine whether they were killed because of their work. We interview families, friends, colleagues, and authorities to learn as much as possible about the circumstances of each case. Details we investigate include whether the journalist was on assignment at the time of the killing, whether they had received threats, and whether they had published work that might have attracted the anger of government authorities, militant groups, or criminal gangs.

A senior team of CPJ editors and researchers assesses all cases where the motive might not be immediately obvious and agrees on changes to the categorization if new information emerges after publication. 

How can I find your data for “unconfirmed” killings?

Select the option for “motive unconfirmed” on our data landing page. While some filters, such as “job” or “suspected source of fire,” aren’t applied in the unconfirmed category, you can still search for the location and year of a journalist’s death.

Why does CPJ typically focus on “confirmed” cases in its public statements about the number of journalists killed annually?

We use rigorous methodology to distinguish between journalists who were killed because of their work and those who may have been targeted for other motives. For that reason, we distinguish between work-related killings and those where we haven’t been able to confirm whether the motive for the killing was related to journalism in our published copy or in media interviews.

Do you have different categories of confirmed killings?

Yes, the confirmed killed cases are divided into three subsets correlated to type of death:

  • Murder – a journalist was singled out in direct retaliation for their published reporting or to head off a sensitive story on which they were working.
  • Combat/crossfire – killed on a battlefield or covering war or insurgency. Our list includes journalists transiting to/from work/assignment *in war zones only.*
  • Dangerous assignment – killed in the line of duty on another type of assignment, such as while covering a protest that turned violent.

Does the “unconfirmed” list include journalists who die from other causes like illness, natural disasters or accidents?

No, we do not include cases where journalists are clearly not killed for their journalism.

How is a “media worker” defined?

CPJ’s definition of media support worker includes translators, drivers, fixers, security guards, and administrative workers. CPJ’s database includes only media workers whose death is confirmed as work-related. These cases are not included in CPJ’s statistical analysis of journalists’ deaths.

When is a journalist classified as “missing”?

A journalist is added to CPJ’s “missing” database when they have vanished without a trace, and no group has taken responsibility for their disappearance. Journalists known to be held by militant groups or other non-state actors are classified as “abducted.”

What is CPJ’s annual prison census?

CPJ’s annual prison census is a snapshot of journalists jailed globally for their work as of midnight on December 1. If a journalist is in custody of a recognized state authority at 00:01 a.m. local time on December 1, they are included in the census.

Who is included in CPJ’s imprisoned data?

CPJ includes journalists – reporters, editors, photojournalists, columnists, publishers – and in some cases technicians and board members or trustees, who are jailed by a recognized state authority because of their work or the reporting of their outlet. Journalists under house arrest are included in CPJ’s prison census if their movements and ability to report are restricted.

Do you update your prison census data during the year?

No. We update the data annually after we confirm who is in jail at midnight on December 1. 

For more about CPJ’s data methodology, click here