Attacks against the media by “unscrupulous” politicians helped make 2018 the worst ever year for violence and abuse against journalists, according to a report released Tuesday.
At least 80 journalists were killed, 348 are in jail and another 60 are being held hostage, according to the annual report from Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media watchdog.
“Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical,” the group’s secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists.”
While the report did not single out specific political figures, attacks on the media have become a hallmark of populist leaders, from Donald Trump to the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
Social media also bore a “heavy responsibility” for amplifying and legitimizing this hateful rhetoric towards the press, Deloire said.
Forty-nine of the journalists killed were deliberately targeted. Yet only a handful of these killings have garnered international media coverage — such as the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi’s inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul, or the shooting of Slovak data journalist Jan Kuciak in his home. Those killings showed “how far some people will go to silence ‘troublesome’ journalists,” the report said,
The remaining 31 killed were caught up in violence, the report states. Afghanistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2018, with 15 killed, followed by Syria, Mexico, and Yemen, while the United States featured for the first time as one of the most dangerous following the murder of five people in a shooting at the Capital Gazette, in Annapolis, Maryland.
The analysis also found the number of journalists detained worldwide had risen to 348, up from 326 last year. More than half were jailed by just five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.
The report follows the release of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual prison census last week, that found the number of journalists jailed on charges of fake news had risen to a record high of 28.
Last week TIME magazine named a group of journalists — including Khashoggi, the slain journalists at the Capital Gazette, the head of Philippine news website Rappler and two imprisoned journalists in Myanmar — as its “person of the year.”
Cover image: A file photo dated May 6, 2018 shows Prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey. (Omar Shagaleh/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)