81 reporters were killed in 2017 as threats soared, global journalism group says

At least 81 reporters were killed doing their jobs this year, while violence and harassment against media staff has skyrocketed, the world's biggest journalists' organization says.

Deaths fell, but ‘unprecedented numbers' of journalists were jailed or forced to flee, IFJ president says

Protesters display a banner reading "justice" at a rally in Malta's capital to honour Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was among the 81 reporters the International Federation of Journalists said were killed this year. (Rene Rossignaud/Associated Press)

At least 81 reporters were killed doing their jobs this year, while violence and harassment against media staff has skyrocketed, according to the world's biggest organization for journalists.

In its annual "kill report," seen by The Associated Press, the International Federation of Journalists said the reporters lost their lives in targeted killings, car bomb attacks and crossfire incidents around the world.

More than 250 journalists were in prison in 2017.

The number of deaths as of Dec. 29 was the lowest in a decade, down from 93 in 2016. 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 Thursday in an attack by an ISIS suicide bomber on a Shia cultural centre in Kabul, in which at least 41 people died.

IFJ President Philippe Leruth said that while the drop in deaths "represents a downward trend, the levels of violence in journalism remain unacceptably high."

He 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."

Self-censorship 'widespread'

Eight women journalists were killed, two 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."

Supporters of the Cumhuriyet newspaper staff, who were on trial in Istanbul, gather outside the courthouse on July 25. The IFJ said two-thirds of the world's imprisoned journalists are in Turkey. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

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 in Turkey — 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.

The country with the highest number of media killings was Mexico, with 13, followed by Afghanistan and Iraq with 11 each, Syria with 10, and India with 6.