New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says 199 journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2015 due to their work.
A total of 110 journalists were killed around the world in 2015, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have said, noting that while many died in war zones the majority were killed in “countries at peace”.
In its annual report published on Tuesday, the Paris-based organisation said 67 journalists were killed in the line of duty this year – up from 66 in 2014.
It listed war-torn Iraq and Syria as the most dangerous places for journalists, with 11 and 10 deaths respectively, followed by France, where eight journalists were killed in an assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
A further 43 journalists around the world died in circumstances that were unclear, the group said. An additional 27 non-professional “citizen-journalists” and seven other media workers were also killed in 2015.
The high toll is “largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists” and demonstrates the failure of initiatives to protect media personnel, the watchdog said.
In particular, the group’s report highlighted the growing role of “non-state groups” – often armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – in perpetrating atrocities against journalists.
Two thirds of the journalists killed in 2014 were in war zones, but this year was the exact opposite, with “two-thirds killed in countries ‘at peace'”, said RSF.
The 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005, according to the group
Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of RSF, urged the international community to take action for the protection of journalists.
“Non-state groups perpetrate targeted atrocities while too many governments do not comply with their obligations under international law,” he said.
“The 110 journalists killed this year need a response that matches the emergency. A special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists must be appointed without delay.”
Aleppo, a ‘minefield’
In Syria, the northern town of Aleppo was described as “a minefield” for professional and citizen-journalists alike.
“Caught between the various parties to the conflict since 2011, journalists are liable to end up as collateral victims, being taken hostage by a non-state group (such as ISIL, the al-Nusra Front or the Free Syrian Army) or being arrested by the Assad regime,” said RSF.
Those murdered in Syria included Kenji Goto, the Japanese freelance reporter whose execution by ISIL was shown in a video in January.
France was the scene of an unprecedented attack on the press in January, when gunmen opened fire at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including eight journalists.
The RSF report also singled out India, where nine journalists have been murdered since the start of 2015 – some of them for reporting on organised crime and its links with politicians, and others for covering illegal mining.
India saw five journalists killed in the course of their work and four for uncertain reasons, which is why it ranked below France where the cause of death was known.
“Their deaths confirm India’s position as Asia’s deadliest country for media personnel, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said RSF, urging the Indian government to establish “a national plan for protecting journalists”.
In Bangladesh, four secular bloggers were killed in acts claimed by local fighters.
“The passivity of the Bangladeshi authorities in the face of this bloodbath has fostered a climate of impunity that is extremely dangerous for citizen journalists,” said RSF.
The report also placed the spotlight on 54 journalists who were held hostage at the end of 2015 – 26 of them in Syria – and 153 journalists who were in prison – 23 of them in China and 22 in Egypt.