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2015 Proved Journalism Can Get You Killed

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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More journalists were killed in peaceful territories in 2015 than in war zones – a result of reporters being deliberately targeted, according to a recent report.

“A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work for unclear reasons in 2015,” Reporters Without Borders said in announcing its annual round up of killed reporters. Of those, 67 “were targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting.”

The motives for the remaining 43 deaths are unknown. There were also 27 citizen journalists and seven media workers killed this year.

That brings the total number of journalists murdered in connection to their work to 787 since 2005.

But “two-thirds of the deaths were in countries ‘at peace,’” the advocacy group wrote. Reporters Without Borders noted that, conversely, two-thirds of journalist deaths occurred in war zones in 2014.

“The January attack on Charlie Hebdo contributed to a reversal of last year’s trend,” Reporters Without Borders wrote. “It was an unprecedented tragedy. A western country had never suffered a massacre of this kind in the past.”

In fact, that attack tied France for the third deadliest country for journalists in 2015 with Yemen, trailing Syria and Iraq with, respectively, 11 and 10 deaths.

Two men linked to Al-Qaeda killed eight Charlie Hebdo journalists in response to the satirical magazine’s cartoons.

In another gruesome example, Rubén Espinosa’s body was found with “apparent marks of torture,” on July 31 in Mexico City, the report said. “His murder prompted outrage and realization of the almost complete absence of effective protection for journalists. A law on the protection of journalists took effect 10 days later.”

A Washington, D.C. reporter was killed after being used as a human shield by a gang member, The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported. Two Virginia journalists were killed on-camera by a disgruntled former reporter.

Reporters Without Borders blamed governments’ failure to protect journalists.

“This disturbing situation is largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists and is indicative of the failure of the initiatives so far taken to protect media personnel,” the group wrote.

“The creation of a specific mechanism for enforcing international law on the protection of journalists is absolutely essential,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement. “The 110 journalists killed this year need a response that matches the emergency. A special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists must be appointed without delay.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement earlier this year.

“I am deeply concerned about the failure to reduce the frequency and scale of targeted violence that journalists face and the near absolute impunity for such crimes,” Ki-moon said in August.

But journalists have previously retaliated in defense of their murdered colleagues, showing hydra-like traits and keen harnessing of the power of the pen.

For example, journalists flocked to Phoenix in the 1970s to finish Don Bolles’ work after the Arizona reporter was murdered by the mafia with a car bomb. The group, which was part of the early days of the Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc., ultimately published a 23-part series that “exposed widespread corruption” across the state, according to its website.

Similarly, Press Uncuffed was formed by University of Maryland journalism students in 2015 to help free reporters imprisoned around the world.

Reporters Without Borders reported that 54 journalists are held hostage, and 153 journalists are detained, according to the Reporters Without Borders round up.

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