'Historically low number' of journalists killed in 2019

Reporters Without Borders says 49 journalists died around the world this year, lowest death toll in 16 years.

    A small protest against the murder and disappearance of journalists in Mexico was recently held [Rebecca Blackwell/AP]
    A small protest against the murder and disappearance of journalists in Mexico was recently held [Rebecca Blackwell/AP]

    Forty-nine journalists were killed across the world this year, according to Reporters Without Borders, the lowest death toll in 16 years.

    The "historically low" number mostly died covering conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan, the Paris-based watchdog said on Tuesday, which warned: "Journalism remains a dangerous profession".

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    About 80 journalists a year have lost their lives on average over the last 20 years, said the organisation known by its French initials RSF.

    But RSF's head Christophe Deloire warned the number of journalists killed in countries supposedly at peace was still alarmingly high, with 10 dying in Mexico alone.

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    "Latin America, with a total of 14 reporters killed across the continent, has become as deadly as the Middle East," he said.

    While he said the fall in the number of fatalities in conflict zones was something to celebrate, "more and more journalists are being assassinated for their work in democratic countries, which is a real challenge to democracy".

    While fewer journalists are dying, more are ending up behind bars, according to RSF.

    About 389 were locked up in 2019, up 12 percent from last year.

    Nearly half were imprisoned in three countries - China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - which was blamed for the grisly killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi at its embassy in Istanbul last year.

    "China, which has intensified its repression of the [mostly Muslim] Uighur minority, alone holds a third of the journalists locked up in the world," RSF said.

    Meanwhile, 57 journalists are being held hostage across the globe, mostly in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Ukraine.

    "There has been no notable freeing of hostages this year despite major developments in Syria," the RSF said, which has led it to fear for the worst for many of those abducted.

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    SOURCE: News agencies