Watchdog says 50 journalists killed in 2020, majority in countries not at war

By Maria D. Valderrama

Paris, Dec 29 (efe-epa).- A total of 50 journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2020, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Tuesday, warning that more media persons were being murdered in countries not at war.

“More journalists are being killed in countries considered to be ‘at peace’,” RSF said in its annual report, highlighting such killings in Mexico, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

In a worrying comparison, the nonprofit said 58 percent of media fatalities in 2016 took place in war zones.

Now, only 32 percent of the fatalities are in war-torn countries such as Syria or Yemen or countries with low or medium-intensity conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

“In other words, 68 percent (more than two thirds) of the fatalities are in countries ‘at peace,’” it said.

Mexico tops the list with eight journalists killed followed by India (four) and Pakistan (four), the Philippines (three), and Honduras (three).

In the second part of its annual report on abusive treatment and violence against journalists, the watchdog said the number of journalists in 2020 was similar to 2019, when 53 journalists were killed, although fewer journalists were in the field because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The report said some were murdered in a “particularly barbaric manner”, especially in Mexico and India, “where journalists were beheaded, cut into pieces, or hacked to death with machetes.”

RSF recalled the brutal murder in Mexico of Julio Valdivia Rodríguez, a reporter for the El Mundo daily, who was found beheaded in the state of Veracruz.

His colleague Víctor Fernando Álvarez Chávez, editor of the news website, Punto x Punto Noticias, was found dismembered in the city of Acapulco. Both crimes remain unpunished.

“With eight journalists killed1 in 2020, Mexico has tragically confirmed its position as (the) world leader of the most dangerous countries for the media,” the report said.

It noted that links between drug traffickers and politicians remain, and journalists who dare to cover these or related issues continue to be the targets of barbarism.

The report said the year also ended in a particularly violent fashion for journalists in India.

Two of the murders in the world’s largest democracy were “especially barbaric,” it said.

Rakesh “Nirbhik” Singh, a reporter for the Rashtriya Swaroop newspaper, was burned alive in December after being doused with a highly flammable, alcohol-based hand sanitizer in his home in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh by men sent by a local official whose corrupt practices he had criticized.

Isravel Moses, a TV reporter in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was hacked to death with machetes in November after neighbors identified him as a journalist to members of a local underworld.

In Pakistan, the body of local reporter Zulfiqar Mandrani, one of four journalists murdered in Pakistan in 2020, was found in southeastern Sindh province in May with two gunshot wounds to the head and evidence of torture across his back.

The nonprofit said the journalist was “probably murdered for investigating the activities of a local drug trafficker with links to a police officer” even as police claimed that it was an “honour killing.”

According to the report, the most dangerous stories are investigations into cases of local corruption or misuse of public funds (10 journalists murdered in 2020) or investigations into the activities of organized crime (four killed).

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