The annual worldwide round-up of deadly violence and abusive treatment of journalists released by the global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows an unprecedented level of hostility towards media personnel.
According to the RSF report, 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.
Once again, the report says, Mexico was the deadliest of the countries not at war, with nine journalists murdered in 2018.
The report reveals that journalists live in fear in India. Six were murdered this year and many others were the targets of murder attempts, physical attacks, and threats.
Hate campaigns in India against journalists, including incitement to murder, are common on social networks and are fed by troll armies linked to the Hindu nationalist right (which belongs to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political party BJP).
Those who murder journalists often use extremely barbaric methods. A village chief in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar killed two journalists, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, in retaliation for their reporting by deliberately running them down with his SUV on 25 March.
On the same day in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, a dump truck was used to run down and kill Sandeep Sharma, a journalist who had been investigating a local “sand mafia.”
The report says at least six journalists have been killed in the past three years by criminal organizations involved in the illegal extraction of sand or other illegal mining.
A total of 80 journalists were killed this year, 348 are currently in prison, and 60 are being held hostage. The RSF report says that journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018.
“Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “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.
“Amplified by social networks, which bear heavy responsibility in this regard, these expressions of hatred legitimize violence, thereby undermining journalism, and democracy itself, a bit more every day.”
The widely reported murders of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the young Slovak data journalist Ján Kuciak highlighted the lengths to which press freedom’s enemies are prepared to go. More than half of the journalists killed in 2018 were deliberately targeted, the report said.
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