There are many dangerous professions in the world. Journalism is one of them. And if you’re thinking this makes sense when considering war correspondents, you’ve only scratched the surface of the real threat. Looking at the numbers, the risks of journalism are far complex and troublesome than one might imagine.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that complies data on journalism violence, 949 journalists have been killed since 1992 – 54 have died in 2012 already.
Iraq, the Philippines and Algeria have been are designated as the ‘deadliest’ countries by the CPJ with 151, 73 and 60 deaths respectively over the past two decades.
So how do these deaths come about? As it turns out, only 18 percent die in crossfire during combat. 70 percent are a result of murder. The same data reports that 9 out of 10 killers behind these incidents go unpunished. While the motive behind these deaths remains speculative, the CPJ reports around 60 percent of those killed were covering political and corruption beats prior to their deaths. Other beats covered by the fallen include human rights (16 percent), crime (15 percent) and even sports (3 percent).
When speaking to student journalists about these statistics, one said her primary fear would be her gender if placed in a dangerous situation.
“I would definitely be scared if I was planning to go abroad for work. But less about being a journalist and more about being an American female,” said Kelly Gustafson, a student journalist at the Medill school of journalism at Northwestern University.
As the CPJ data suggest however, it’s men who should be concerned. Of the journalists killed, 93 percent have been men. With these facts in mind, businesses such as Centurion, based in the United Kingdom, are offering assistance. Specialized courses called “hostile environment training,” educate participants in areas such as first aid, personal safety and handling various dangers in high-risk areas. According to Centurion, this type of training “is mandatory pre-departure training for most international broadcasters, an increasing number of aid agencies, NGOs and human rights organisations (sic).” While preparing journalists who are going overseas is a step in the right direction, it still doesn’t address the core of the problem. According to the CPJ figures, 87 percent of the journalists killed are local reporters.
“A lot of them are just local journalists covering local issues in their native countries,” said Maria Salazar-Farro of the CPJ.
Lack of impunity remains a problem as well. The CPJ is involved in advocacy efforts, but the organization says that ‘complete justice’ only occurs in only 5 percent of the cases involving murder.
As groups and individuals continue to raise awareness about safety in journalism, there are also efforts to memorialize those who have already fallen. Washington, D.C.’s Newseum contains the Journalist Memorial. According to their website, it is a two-story structure of glass panels with the names of 2,156 individuals who gave their life for their craft.