2019 marks a decline in number of journalists killed, but a rise in arbitrary imprisonment

An annual worldwide report on violence and abusive treatment against journalists published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) indicates that in 2019 there was an “unprecedented fall in the number of journalists killed”. 43 professional journalists, non-professional journalists and media workers were killed this year, the lowest number since 2003.

This fall is largely attributed to the evolution of the conflict in the Middle East that resulted in a  decline in media coverage of the conflict in Yemen and Afghanistan. Additionally, 2019 was the least deadly year for journalists in Syria since the civil war started there.

A similar decline was however not found in the number of journalists arbitrarily detained for their work. The report states that “389 journalists are currently in prison in connection to their work, 12% more than last year.” This figure does not include journalists across the world who were arbitrarily detained for a few hours or days in the course of their work.

RSF says the reason for the increase is due to protests in countries like Algeria, Bolivia, Chile and Hong Kong that were accompanied by a rise in attacks on journalists.

In its 2019 census of journalists in jail, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) also high numbers of journalists imprisoned for their reporting. It says that as of December 1, 250 journalists were in jail in relation to their work.

China, the census found, is the world’s worst jailer with 48 journalists behind bars. After China the world’s worst jailers of journalists are Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea, Vietnam and Iran.


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