Historic drop in number of murdered journalists, record incarcerations

By Luis Miguel Pascual

Paris, Dec 16 (EFE) .- Some 46 journalists were killed in 2021, according to the annual report by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, the lowest number of deaths in 20 years, while the number of incarcerations reached a historical record of 488.

The tally published Thursday classifies Mexico as the most dangerous country for journalists for the third consecutive year, while China retains its status as the world’s largest jailer of reporters.

The organization said the drop in the number of journalists killed is due to “the evolution of regional conflicts” in Syria, Iraq or Yemen, with a “stabilization of the fronts” after particularly deadly years that set a record in 2016.

Since 2003, the organization’s annual balance had not registered fewer than 50 fatalities. Both journalists who died in conflict zones and those who were the direct targets of their murderers were killed.

In total, 26 reporters were targeted by their killers, 65 percent of the total, compared to 85 percent the previous year, with Mexico the main danger zone, with seven victims, bringing the number registered in the last five years to 47.

As in previous reports, the organization said that “as soon as a journalist is interested in troublesome matters and organized crime, particularly at the local level, he risks a cold-blooded execution” in that country.

All this in a situation of “almost total impunity” and “absence of courageous reforms by successive governments”, which generates “a spiral of violence that seems to never stop.”

Afghanistan, where the Taliban regained power, came second on the tragic list, with six dead, all of them killed in Islamist attacks amid “total impunity.”

The country equaled Mexico in the number of victims in the last five years.

The armed conflict in Yemen and the Indian mafia have claimed four victims each in 2021.

The organization said three out of five murdered journalists were in countries that are not officially at war and pointed to two cases in the European Union: Greece’s Giorgos Karaivaz, who was investigating police corruption in his country, and Dutchman Peter R. de Vries, an organized crime specialist.

This is the deadliest year in Europe since 2015, marked by the attacks on the French satirical weekly “Charlie Hebdo” that killed eight journalists.

The drop in the number of journalists killed contrasts with the record for reporters behind bars, following a 20 percent increase in 2021, reflecting “the amplification of an increasingly relentless crackdown on independent reporting.”

The return of the military junta to power in Myanmar, the hardening of the situation in Belarus and China’s heavy hand in Hong Kong largely explain the historical worsening of the situation.

China remains the world’s largest prison for journalists, with 127 of them behind bars in the world’s most populous country, while Myanmar took second place, with 53, ousting Vietnam (43) and Saudi Arabia (31) which has also been surpassed by Belarus (32).

The organization said more and more journalists are being imprisoned, 60 in 2021, a third more than in the previous year, reflecting their increasing importance in the profession, but also that they are the specific targets of many regimes.

The annual balance shows 65 journalists were kidnapped in the world, two more than in 2020, all of them in four countries: Syria (44), Iraq (11), Yemen (nine) and Mali (one).

The Islamic State group is the main kidnapper of reporters, with 28, followed by the Yemeni Houthi militia, with eight, and the Levant Liberation Agency (Hayat Tahrir al Sham) of Syria, with seven.

Added to them is the disappearance of two journalists in the Mexican state of Sonora, Jorge Molotzin Centlal, of whom there has been no news since Mar. 10, and Pablo Felipe Romero, whose whereabouts are unknown since Mar. 25. EFE

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