India is the fifth-most deadliest place for journalists, says RSF report

A new report by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows an increase in the number of journalists killed worldwide in 2018, with a total of 80 killed so far. Of these, 63 were professional journalists. RSF said 348 others were detained, 60 were held hostage, and 3 are missing.

India has emerged among the world’s top five deadliest countries for journalists alongside the United States, which has entered the list for the first time.

The report mentioned that as many as six journalists have been murdered this year in India and many others were the targets of murder attempts, physical attacks, and threats. Additionally, the journalists witnessed hate campaigns against them, including incitement to murder, which has become a common thing across social media.

“The world’s five deadliest countries for journalists include three—India, Mexico, and for the first time the United States—where journalists were killed in cold blood although these countries were not at war or in conflict,” the report said.

What does the report say?

Of the 80 journalists killed, 49 were deliberately targeted because their reporting threatened the interests of certain people in positions of political, economic, or religious power or organised crime.

The report stated that 15 journalists were killed in Afghanistan in 2018, making the nation the deadliest place to report from. A total of 11 journalists were killed in Syria, 9 in Mexico, 8 in Yemen, and 6 each in India and the United States.

The RSF however highlighted some positive news from Iraq, where no journalist was killed for the first time since the US-led invasion of 2003.  

It also noted that out of the 348 journalists detained in 2018, 60 were in China, 38 in Egypt, 33 in Turkey, and 28 each in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Turkey’s record highlights President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent and goes to show that his concern over the Khashoggi episode is more politics than concern for press freedom.

US tied with India

The United States of America shares the spot for being the fifth most-deadliest place for journalists with India.

Six journalists lost their lives in the U.S. over the past year. Four journalists and a sales accountant were brutally killed when a gunman opened fire on the Capital Gazette newsroom in June 2018, in what was considered the deadliest attack on the US media in recent history. Two other U.S. journalists, a cameraman and TV anchor, were killed by a falling tree in May while covering a storm in North Carolina.

The RSF’s findings shed a spotlight on the rising animosity towards journalists across the world in the past year—a problem that has been exacerbated by world leaders’ and politicians’ invectives against the media, including the frequent “enemy of the people” salvos fired by President Donald Trump.

“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,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF’s Secretary-General, Time reported.

The state of the Indian press

Speaking to Exchange4Media, Pankaj Pachauri, former Media Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of GoNews, highlighted the risks faced by journalists in India.

“If you see, the number of journalists covering dangerous areas, it has increased with the coming of new platforms. Now, you have bloggers going to Iraq to cover news and this has increased the risk to journalists, and hence, the higher casualty figures. Also, the perpetrators of violence, whether it’s the security forces or the militants, see journalists as threat.

“So journalists are under attack from both sides. I have experienced this in Kashmir where the security forces don’t want me to know what they are doing and the militants think I’m on the security forces side, and this is a phenomenon that is happening across the world,” Pachauri said.

Pachauri then argued that the government should have in place, strict measures to ensure safety of journalists. He also urged journalists to be true to their profession to avoid becoming victims of their personal bias.

“The governments have to be very tough on these things and they have to say very vocally that they stand for the freedom of press. The other factor is that journalism has come into disrepute lately as there are accusations of paid news and siding with political parties, and once the journalist becomes partisan, the risk to his/her security becomes higher”, Pachauri told Exchange4Media.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

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