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BRUSSELS (AP) – At least 81 reporters were killed on the job this year, while violence and harassment against media staff has skyrocketed, the world’s biggest journalists’ organization says.
In its annual “Kill Report,” viewed by The Associated Press, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said reporters lost their lives in targeted killings, car bomb attacks, and crossfire incidents around the world. The largest number were killed in Mexico, but many also died in conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The IFJ suspected but could not officially confirm that at least one other journalist was killed on December 28 in an attack by an Islamic State suicide bomber on a Shiite cultural center in Kabul, in which at least 41 people died.
More than 250 journalists were also in prison in 2017.
While the number of annual deaths as of December 29 was the lowest in a decade, down from 93 in 2016, IFJ President Philippe Leruth said that “the levels of violence in journalism remain unacceptably high.”
Mr. Leruth said the IFJ finds it “most disturbing that this decrease cannot be linked to any measure by governments to tackle the impunity for these crimes.”
Overall, eight women journalists were killed. Two were in European democracies—Kim Wall in Denmark, who died on the submarine of an inventor she was writing about, and Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was blown up by a bomb placed in her car.
Beyond the deaths, the IFJ warned that “unprecedented numbers of journalists were jailed, forced to flee, that self-censorship was widespread and that impunity for the killings, harassment, attacks and threats against independent journalism was running at epidemic levels.”
Turkey, where official pressure on the media has been ramped up since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, is becoming notorious for putting reporters behind bars. Some 160 journalists are jailed there—two-thirds of the global total—the report said.
The organization also expressed concern about India, the world’s largest democracy, where it said that attacks on journalists are being motivated by violent populism.
“This intolerance led to the high profile killing of Gauri Lankesh, a prominent woman journalist who was well known for her independent reporting,” the organization stated.
The Asia Pacific region has the highest killing tally of 26, followed by the Arab World and Middle East at 24 killings, the Americas with 17, Africa with eight, and Europe with five, according to IFJ records.
“In Syria, Mexico and India killings continue at frightening levels, more women journalists have been murdered, impunity for killings still runs at over 90%, self-censorship remains widespread, and more journalists are in jail than at any time in recent years,” Mr. Leruth stated.