Journalist murders double in 2020; Criminal and extremist groups target reporters in democracies

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The number of journalists murdered in retaliation for their work more than doubled in 2020 as criminal gangs and militant groups targeted reporters working in violent but democratic nations. Globally, at least 30 journalists were killed of December 15, 2020. Of those, 21 were murdered in direct retaliation for their work, compared with 10 in all of 2019. Learn their names and stories, and help ensure they are not forgotten.

NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was identified on phones of at least 36 journalists and media executives, most of whom were affiliated with Al Jazeera, despite NSO Group’s assertion that its advanced surveillance tool is only used by governments for law enforcement purposes. As CPJ MENA Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour noted, “Citizen Lab presents mounting evidence that for clients in the Middle East, the ability to spy on journalists and other critics is a feature, rather than a side benefit, of NSO Group’s surveillance products.” The latest revelations come as CPJ joined an amicus brief in the WhatsApp v. NSO Group case calling upon the U.S. Federal 9th Circuit Court to hold the cybersurveillance company accountable. “In a year that has seen more journalists imprisoned for their work than ever before and widespread impunity for the attacks on the press, the continued sale and use of NSO’s spyware only serves to make the media’s working conditions around the world more dangerous,” CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch said. Check out CPJ’s safety advisory on Pegasus spyware for advice on how to avoid a spyware attack and steps to take if you believe that your digital devices have been compromised.

Global press freedom updates


The backdrop to increased murders of journalists in 2020 is CPJ’s research showing that in 8 out of 10 murders, the killers go free. CPJ fights this trend through the Global Campaign Against Impunity. CPJ is also a partner in the newly launched initiative A Safer World For Truth, which pursues justice for murdered journalists and helps keep their stories alive. Find ways to get involved here.

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