NEW YORK: Sixty-nine journalists were killed around the world on the job in 2015. Twenty-eight of them were slain by Islamic militant groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The New York-based organization says Syria again was the deadliest place for journalists, though the number of deaths there in 2015 — 13 — was lower than in previous years of the conflict.
“These journalists are the most vulnerable,” Joel Simon, the committee’s executive director said of reporters and broadcasters working in Syria and other areas inundated with Islamic extremists. “This is, clearly based on the data, an incredible risk for journalists.”
Those killed by Islamic extremist groups this year included eight journalists killed in an attack in Paris in January at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack in which two gunmen massacred 12 people. They said it was in “revenge for the prophet.”
In October, two Syrian journalists, Fares Hamadi and Ibrahim Abd al-Qader were killed by Islamic State militants.
While some of the deaths were among reporters covering conflict zones, journalists in several countries also were killed after reporting on sensitive subjects. At least 28 of the reporters who were killed had received threats before their deaths, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Among the 69 journalists killed were reporter Alison Parker and videojournalist Adam Ward, of Roanoke, Virginia, TV station WDBJ, who were fatally shot in August by former co-worker Vester Lee Flanagan II during a live broadcast. Their interview subject, Vicki Gardner, was wounded. Flanagan fatally shot himself five hours later after a police chase.
“Journalists are a target and this just confirms it,” Simon said of the data the committee compiled. “This is a global threat.”
Other countries with several journalists killed included Bangladesh, where extremist groups are suspected in the deaths of four bloggers and a publisher; and South Sudan, where five journalists traveling with a local official were killed in an ambush by unidentified gunmen.
The deaths in Bangladesh included the February attack on Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer Avijit Roy with meat cleavers on a crowded street in Dhaka, the capital. The killings have raised concerns that religious extremism is taking hold in the traditionally moderate South Asian country.
The Committee to Protect Journalists report warns that it is increasingly difficult to research the deaths of journalists in conflict-hit places such as Libya, Yemen and Iraq. As in Syria, the Islamic State group holds parts of Iraq, where the organization says it has received reports of “dozens more journalists killed.”
The committee has been compiling reports of journalists’ deaths since 1992. The count includes the deaths of at least 17 journalists killed in combat or on other dangerous assignments or murdered for their work.
In its own count, the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders says in a report released Tuesday that at least 67 journalists were killed worldwide while reporting or because of their work in 2015. It says the circumstances around another 43 deaths remain unclear.