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Photo by iStock; photo illustration by Security Management

Murders of Journalists Go Unsolved

When it comes to successfully prosecuting murders of journalists, Somalia has the world’s worst record for the fifth year running, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 2019 Global Impunity Index. During a 10-year period ending 31 August 2019, 318 journalists were murdered for their work worldwide; in 86 percent of those cases, no perpetrator was successfully prosecuted. The index tallies only deliberate killings of specific journalists in retaliation for the victim’s work, not cases of journalists killed in combat or while on dangerous assignment, CPJ says.

In the past two years, CPJ recorded a slight improvement in impunity rates, declining from near 90 percent to 85 percent. However, 13 countries account for more than three-quarters of the global total of unsolved murders of journalists during the index period: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Russia. These 13 countries represent a mix of conflict regions and relatively stable countries where criminal groups, politicians, government officials, or powerful actors use violence to silence critical reporting and investigations.

“Unchecked corruption, ineffective institutions, and lack of political will to pursue robust investigations are all factors behind impunity,” CPJ found.

The Philippines has been on the index’s top offenders list for 12 years, and ranked fifth in the 2019 index, partly due to the deadly ambush of 58 individuals—including 32 journalists and media workers—in 2009. As of August 2019, no verdict in the trial of more than 100 suspects has been announced.

Between January and August 2019, Mexico was the deadliest country for journalists and media workers, with 11 killed—including five journalists murdered on the job. Of the 32 murders of journalists that occurred in Mexico during the 10-year index period, authorities secured only one conviction.

“The impunity we have witnessed in these countries year after year, and the knowledge that authorities take little action against those who attack the press, cripples the ability of journalists around the world to do their job,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch in a press release. “Democratic governments cannot stand silent in the face of impunity if they want to be seen as supporting press freedom. It is imperative that journalists and their families receive the justice they deserve, and that world leaders demand accountability.”