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CPJ Special Report - Deadly News

CPJ Special Report - Deadly News

More than three times every month, journalists are killed for their work. Most are murdered, not killed in combat. Government and military officials are behind many slayings. Few killers are ever brought to justice.

New York, September 20, 2006 - Five hundred and eighty journalists have been killed for their work over the past 15 years, many on the orders of government and military officials, a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. Few cases are ever solved.

CPJ's analysis of journalist deaths worldwide - the most extensive study of its kind ever undertaken - shows that journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work at a rate of more than three per month. Of the 580 deaths recorded since 1992, the year CPJ began keeping detailed death records, 85 percent involved local beat reporters, editors, and photojournalists.

In conducting its analysis, CPJ spent seven months compiling a database detailing all journalist deaths and analyzing them in 21 categories. The database, along with narrative case capsules compiled by CPJ staff over 15 years, are available as part of CPJ's special report, "Deadly News."

CPJ's data show the vast majority of victims - 71 percent - are targeted for murder in retaliation for their reporting. Even in war zones, CPJ's analysis shows, murder is the leading cause of death.

"Journalists accept risks every day, but those risks should not include murder," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. "The tragic loss of these lives is compounded by all the stories that were never covered, all the investigations that were never undertaken, and all the news that was never reported."

The governments that journalists sought to check with their reporting are believed to be behind many of the slayings. Government and military officials are suspected of plotting, ordering, or carrying out 27 percent of journalist murders over the past 15 years, CPJ's analysis shows. Paramilitary groups, aligned with government security forces in nations such as Colombia and Rwanda, are suspected in another eight percent of murders.

But retribution comes from all political corners. In 24 percent of murder cases, CPJ found, political groups armed and allied against a government are suspected of killing journalists. The phenomenon is most evident in Iraq, where insurgent groups are believed to have murdered more than 50 journalists.

Crossfire in combat is the second leading cause of death, accounting for 18 percent of journalists killed. Dangerous assignments, such as coverage of riots in domestic situations, account for 10 percent of journalist deaths and constitute the third primary cause of death.

Other highlights from "Deadly News":

- The vast majority of journalists worldwide have been slain with impunity. About 85 percent of journalists' killers in the last 15 years did not face prosecution, CPJ found. Even when murders were more fully investigated and some convictions obtained, masterminds were brought to justice in just seven percent of cases.

- Print reporters faced greater retaliation than any other category of journalist, making up nearly a third of recorded deaths. But in parts of the world reliant on broadcast news, radio commentators, as in the Philippines, and television journalists, as in India, bear a heavy burden.

- More than one in five victims covered a political beat, and a similar number specialized in exposing corruption.

- Nine out of 10 murders, CPJ found, had the hallmarks of premeditation such as careful planning, groups of assailants, and gangland-style execution.

- Killers were brazen enough in 24 percent of cases to have threatened the victims before murdering them. Nearly 20 percent were kidnapped by militants, criminals, guerrillas, or government forces before being killed.

- Iraq is the deadliest country for journalists over the past 15 years, followed by Algeria, Russia, Colombia, and the Philippines.

- Journalist deaths typically spike in times of war, from about 26 in years without major conflict to roughly 46 in years in which the press is covering significant warfare.

- Foreign correspondents, unlike their local counterparts, died most commonly in combat situations. Of the 89 foreign correspondents killed since 1992, 49 died in combat-related crossfire.

- While journalists were not necessarily targeted in combat-related deaths, CPJ found that many of these deaths could have been avoided had an army followed its own rules of engagement. Such killings are rarely subjected to a thorough or impartial investigation.

- In Iraq, for example, CPJ's analysis found no evidence that U.S. forces deliberately targeted any of the 14 journalists killed by its soldiers - but it also found that the U.S. military failed to fully investigate the killings.

"The killing of a journalist has a transcendent effect on society because it erodes one of the main avenues of holding the powerful accountable," Simon said. "These lives have already been lost - what is left to us is to work for justice."

CPJ's database includes only those cases in which it is reasonably certain that a death was directly related to a journalist's work. CPJ continues to track - but does not include in this database - another 216 journalist deaths in which the circumstances are not clear. Neither does CPJ include in its database journalists who are killed in accidents - such as car or plane crashes - unless the crash was caused by hostile action. Other press organizations using different criteria cite higher numbers of deaths than CPJ.

To read CPJ's complete report:

To view and download a database of 580 journalists killed since 1992:

To read narrative capsules of all 580 cases:

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit


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