'Disturbing increase' in violence against journalists worldwide

The murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in a year when more than half of all journalists killed were targeted deliberately reflects a hatred of the media in many areas of society, according to the group Reporters Without Borders.

At least 63 professional journalists around the world were killed doing their jobs in 2018

A man passes in front of a screen in Istanbul showing Jamal Khashoggi during a commemoration event of Khashoggi's supporters on Nov. 11. He was one of at least 63 professional journalists around the world were who killed doing their jobs in 2018. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

The murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in a year when more than half of all journalists killed were targeted deliberately reflects a hatred of the media in many areas of society, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Tuesday.

At least 63 professional journalists around the world were killed doing their jobs from Jan. 1 to Dec.1, 2018, the Paris-based group said, a 15 per cent increase over last year. The number of fatalities rises to 80 when including all media workers and citizen journalists.

Of the 80 people in total listed as killed, the group determined 49 were deliberately targeted "because their reporting threatened the interests of certain people in positions of political, economic, or religious power or organized crime." The other 31 died in the field while reporting, RSF said, adding that the group was investigating a further 10 deaths to determine whether they were related to journalism.

"The hatred of journalists that is voiced… 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," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

Global outrage

Khashoggi — an insider of Saudi Arabia's royal circle who became a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and who began writing for The Washington Post after moving to the U.S. — was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Khashoggi's death sparked global outrage. Saudi officials have rejected accusations that the prince ordered his death.

RSF said the three most dangerous countries for journalists to work in were Afghanistan, Syria and Mexico.

Meanwhile, the shooting of five employees of The Capital Gazette newspaper propelled the United States into the ranks of the most dangerous countries.

A bright spot was Iraq, where no media deaths were reported so far in 2018, for the first time since 2003.

348 detained

The media freedom organization said 348 journalists are being detained worldwide, compared with 326 at this time in 2017. 

RSF listed China as the biggest jailer, holding 60 people, 46 of them described as non-professional journalists "who have tried to compensate for the Communist Party's increasingly tight control on the traditional media." Ten of those, the group said, were in danger of dying in Chinese prisons.

Turkey was the world's biggest jailer of professional journalists in 2018, according to the report, holding 33 of the total 179 being held in detention worldwide. In Egypt, 30 of the 38 journalists being held were still awaiting trial, the group said, including one who has already been held for more than three years without being officially charged.

China, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt hold more than half the world's imprisoned journalists.

Candles representing the slain journalists of the Capital Gazette the day after a gunman killed five people inside the newspaper's building in Annapolis, Md., in June. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

With files from The Associated Press