The debate triggered by the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was exceptional in part because, by some measures, his case was not unusual. The Washington Post contributing columnist, who was assaulted, suffocated and dismembered by a hit squad in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2, was just one of dozens of journalists around the world who were killed in 2018 because of their work. Hundreds more are imprisoned. The growing prevalence of violence and intimidation directed against the media recently prompted the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to describe “a profound global crisis of press freedom.”
In a year-end report, the CPJ counted 53 journalists killed between Jan. 1 and Dec. 14, including 34 targeted in reprisal for their work — nearly double the 18 such slayings it recorded in 2017. Reporters Without Borders, another independent group, counted 63 professional journalists killed; it counted 49 killed journalists, including professionals, nonprofessionals and media workers, who were deliberately targeted. The murders ranged in location from Afghanistan, where nine journalists were killed in a single suicide bombing this past April, to Annapolis, Md., where four reporters and editors of the Capital Gazette and a sales assistant were shot and killed June 28, allegedly by a man who had threatened the paper.
No region of the world was exempt. In European Union member Slovakia, investigative journalist Jan Kuciak was gunned down along with his fiancée. At least four journalists were killed in Mexico, the CPJ said, and two in Brazil. But the violence was concentrated in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The 13 Afghan journalists killed were the most recorded in a year by the CPJ. At least nine journalists were killed in Syria, three in Yemen and two in the Gaza Strip.
Among countries where journalists are imprisoned, Turkey remained the leader, with 68 jailed. While that number was down slightly from the previous year, the number of imprisoned journalists in China rose to 47, due in part to the ongoing campaign of repression against Muslims in the Xinjiang region, where 10 media workers were detained without charge. In Saudi Arabia, the same campaign against dissent that led to Khashoggi’s killing left 16 journalists imprisoned in December, according to the CPJ account.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST