A recent report released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) named the top five most dangerous countries in the world for journalists in the past year. In 2018, 15 journalists died in Afghanistan, 11 in Syria, nine Mexico, eight in Yemen, six in India, and six in the U.S.
The U.S. landed a position on this list after the a shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman who had previously threatened the paper for several years had shot and killed four reporters, according to RSF. Two other American journalists died while covering a storm in South Carolina in dangerous conditions.
Despite the increasing number of journalists’ deaths in the U.S., the causes of the six deaths in 2018 were either by accident or at the hands of one unstable person who had access to a gun, suggesting that the U.S.’s placement on the list of most dangerous countries for journalists may be more due to the current political climate with rising backlash that many journalists are facing, especially under the Trump administration.
“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,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said.
According to RSF, 348 journalists are being held detained around the globe, compared to 326 in 2017. In addition, 80 professional journalists were killed on duty in 2018 so far, a 15 percent increase over the last year.
In response to the growing hostility against journalists also came a growing defense of journalists and their right to freedom of speech. One of the most prominent examples of this in 2018 was the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in Saudi Arabia after his criticism of the Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman. His murder spurred a global discussion on the rights and protection of journalists.
This growing discussion was highlighted when Time magazine named Khashoggi, the Capital Gazette staff, the Fillipina journalist Maria Ressa and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as 2018 Person of the Year, calling them “The Guardians” for truth.
Even with an increasing number of people raising their voices to combat the hostility toward journalists, more action needs to be taken to reverse the statistics and increase the protection and rights of journalists in the coming year.