Global media freedom agency, Reporters Without Borders, have for the first time compiled a list of the world’s 10 most dangerous places for the media. Fienie Grobler reports.
In 2011, a total of 66 journalists were killed world-wide while doing their jobs. Of these, nine were killed in Africa, 20 in the Middle East, 17 in Asia, 18 in the Americas and two in Europe.
That is an increase of 16 percent from 2010, according to the Reporters Without Borders report.
Pakistan was the single deadliest country for a second year, where 10 journalists were killed in 2011.
The number of journalists arrested in 2011 – a total of 1044 – jumped by 95 percent, up from 535 arrests in 2010.
“Overall, 2011 took a heavy toll on media freedom,” states the report, posted on its website, www.en.rsf.org.
“The Arab Spring was at the centre of the news. Of the total of 66 journalists killed in 2011, 20 were killed in the Middle East (twice as many as in 2010).”
Not only journalists came under fire as nearly 200 bloggers and ‘netizens’ – those who feed the media information from the street – were arrested.
“The 43 per cent increase in physical attacks on journalists and the 31 per cent increase in arrests of netizens – who are leading targets when they provide information about street demonstrations during media blackouts – were also significant developments in a year of protest. Five netizens were killed in 2011, three of them in Mexico alone,” states the report.
Some 1959 journalists were attacked or threatened in 2011, compared to 1374 in 2010.
A total of 62 bloggers were “physically attacked” last year, up from 52 the year before.
The number of countries affected by censorship was up from 62 in 2010 to 68 in 2011.
“From Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Khuzdar in southwestern Pakistan, from Mogadishu to the cities of the Philippines, the risks of working as a journalist at times of political instability were highlighted more than ever in 2011. The street was where danger was to be found in 2011, often during demonstrations that led to violent clashes with the security forces or degenerated into open conflict,” the report says.
The 10 most dangerous places for journalists last year, in alphabetical order, were: Manama (Bahrain), Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Cairo’s Tahrir Square (Egypt), Misrata (Libya), Veracruz state (Mexico), Khuzdar (Pakistan), The Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro metropolitan areas on the islands of Luzon and Mindanao (Philippines), Mogadishu (Somalia), Deraa, Homs and Damascus (Syria) and Sanaa’s Change Square (Yemen).
In Bahrain, state authorities make life difficult for foreign journalists trying to enter the country to cover pro-democracy protests. Journalists and photographers were detained and many were tried before military tribunals.
“A blogger jailed by a military court is still in prison and no civilian court ever reviewed his conviction. Bahrain is an example of news censorship that succeeded with the complicity of the international community, which said nothing. A newspaper executive and a netizen paid for this censorship with their lives,” states the Reporters Without Borders report.
In Abidjan, journalists were “subjected to heavy-handed interrogation or physically attacked”.
“A newspaper employee was beaten and hacked to death at the end of February. A Radio Yopougon presenter was the victim of an execution-style killing by members of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) in May.”
Pro-democracy protests in Egypt also proved dangerous for journalists: “Foreign journalists were systematically attacked during the incredibly violent first week of February, when an all-out hate campaign was waged against the international media from February 2 – 5.”
In Libya, two of the five journalists killed in that country died in Misrata, its third-largest city, where anti-Gaddafi rebels launced an offensive on Tripoli.
Mexico made it on to the list of dangerous places for its criminal reputation, known for being the epicentre of a federal offensive against cartels. Three journalists were killed in Mexico.
Pakistan’s Khuzdar district was marked by “extreme violence” last year.
“The province’s media are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and armed separatists. The murder of Javed Naseer Rind, a former assistant editor of the Daily Tawar newspaper, was the latest example. His body was found on November 5, nearly three months after he was abducted. An anti-separatist group calling itself the Baloch Musallah Defa Army issued a hit-list at the end of November naming four journalists as earmarked for assassination,” states the report.
In the Philippines, “paramilitary groups and private militias” responsible for murders and attacks on journalists enjoyed “total impunity”, the report states.
In Somalia, journalists were exposed to “terrible dangers, including being killed by a a bomb or a stray bullet or being deliberately targeted by militias hostile to the news media”.
In Syria, the regime imposed a complete black-out during protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. About 30 journalists are currently believed to be detained in that country.
Change Square in Sanaa, Yemen, was another centre of protests, this time against President Ali Abdallah Saleh. Two journalists were killed while covering demonstrations.
Fienie Grobler is deputy news editor at the South African Press Association (Sapa).