report deaths, fewer journalism deaths in 2008, freedom of press in 2008
Wisam Sami/AP
Relatives and morgue workers carry the coffin of slain journalist Jawad Saadoun al-Daami
outside the morgue at al-Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad,
Iraq late 2007.

Freedom of Press Still Threatened Despite Decrease in Journalists’ Deaths

December 31, 2008 10:26 AM
by Rachel Balik
A drop in the number of journalists who were killed in 2008 is mainly the result of fewer deaths in Iraq, not better overall protection.

Journalist Deaths Down in 2008

The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders reports that fewer reporters died on the job in 2008 than did in 2007. In 2007, 86 reporters died worldwide; that number fell to 60 in 2008. A large chunk of the disparity is explained by a decrease in journalists’ deaths in Iraq. There, 47 journalists were killed in 2007, but only 15 have died in the past 12 months.

Furthermore, the decrease is an indicator of how many reporters have left the field to pursue more stable careers, the Reporters Without Borders report said. For example, deaths in Africa dropped from 12 to 3, which coincided with a large number of journalists leaving the continent.

The report also stated that, although deaths were down, in many countries, even in the West, censorship was heightened and journalists’ rights were compromised or limited. However, statistically censorship seems to have decreased. The Report, called the Press Freedom Round-Up 2008, states that the number of media outlets that were censored dipped to 353 in 2008, from 528 in the previous year. That number does not include Internet reporting, however; the report counts 1,740 Web sites that were “blocked, shut down or suspended” this year.

Background: 2007 a deadly year for journalists

Reporters Without Borders conducted a similar study last year and found that a high number of reporter deaths occurred in Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan.

In Iraq, journalists were being intentionally targeted and killed, which accounted for the high number of deaths there: 47. The statistics showed a tremendous spike in casualties for members of the media, and was explained by significant worldwide violence and a global disregard for the freedom of the press.

Another American organization reported that the 2007 toll of journalists killed was the highest since 1994. War certainly accounted for many of the deaths, but the BBC reported in December of 2007 that only 56 percent of people in 14 countries surveyed believed that freedom of press was important in order to ensure freedom.

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