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The 'deadliest region for journalists'

Gabriel DomínguezFebruary 11, 2016

While news are dominated by events in the Middle East, the most dangerous place for journalists to work in is the Asia Pacific, which features 3 of the top 10 worst countries for journalist killings in the past 25 years.

Myanmar journalists wearing T-shirts that say 'Stop Killing Press' stage a silent protest for five journalists who were jailed for 10 years on July 10, near the Myanmar Peace Center where Myanmar President Thein Sein was scheduled to meet with local artists in Yangon on July 12, 2014 (Photo: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: Getty Images/AFP/S. T. Win

The Asia Pacific ranks today as the most lethal region in the world to work in as a journalist, according to a February 11 report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Since 1990, the region has registered the highest death toll of journalists and media professionals at 571 - a regional average of 23 a year - followed by the Middle East with 473 killings, the Americas at 472, Africa at 424, and Europe with 357 dead.

According to the report, media workers were mostly killed as a result of shootings, explosions, stabbings and bashings. "There are many ways journalists are being targeted, often removed from the war theatre, many of whom are victims of organized crime and corrupt officials. It is a recurring finding of our reports that there are many more killed in peace time situations than in war-stricken countries," said IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger.

The IFJ stressed that a key issue in this context was the scant consideration to the levels of violence against journalists around the world, with just one of ten killings being investigated. "The lack of action to eradicate the impunity for killings and other attacks on media professionals continues to fuel violence targeting them," said the IFJ in a statement.

The Philippines

The report also highlighted that the Asia-Pacific is home to three of the top ten worst countries for journalist killings in the past quarter century: the Philippines, India and Pakistan.

After Iraq, the Philippines has been the world's second-deadliest country with 146 killings in that period, and the deadliest peacetime country globally. On top of that, the Southeast Asian nation ranked fourth in the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) 2015 Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go unpunished.

"Though it has dropped to fourth from third on the Impunity Index, the Philippines remains the only country within the top five impunity offenders not engulfed by conflict and acute political instability," said the CPJ, adding that there had been 44 media killings "with complete impunity" in the country since September 2005, 7, which took place under the administration of incumbent President Benigno Aquino III.

The worst year on record was 2009 with 152 killings, following the horrific Ampatuan Massacre - also known as the Maguindanao massacre - which included 32 media workers who were slaughtered in an ambush of a political convoy.

"Justice for the 32 media victims and 26 others slaughtered in the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao appears more elusive than ever. No one has yet been convicted of the crime and, after six years of protracted legal proceedings, the suspected mastermind has now died of natural causes," said the CJP in a report released last October.


The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which was the worst-ranked country in 2014 in terms of journalist killings, ranks fourth in the IFJ list with 116 journalists killed. In a report released last year, Amnesty International (AI) documented 34 cases of journalists being killed in the period from the restoration of democratic rule in Pakistan in 2008 to April 2014.

"This is something authorities must address urgently. A critical first step must be for Pakistan to investigate its own military and intelligence agencies and ensure that those responsible for human rights violations against journalists are brought to justice. This will send a powerful signal to those who target journalists that they no longer have free reign," David Griffiths, AI's deputy Asia Pacific director, told DW.

Pakistan also ranks ninth in the CPJ's impunity index, with a rating of 0.119 unsolved journalist murders per a million inhabitants. Threats to journalists stream from military and intelligence agencies, political parties, criminal groups and militants, and corrupt local leaders.

According to the CPJ, Pakistan is a focus country for the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity, an initiative that has improved dialogue and coordination among civil society, media, and the government but not yet led to any significant reduction in impunity.


India was the third Asia-Pacific country in the IFJ's top ten list, sitting overall at seventh place with 96 journalists killed since 1990. India continues to struggle violence and impunity across the country.

According to Reporters Without Borders or (RSF), at least nine Indian journalists have been murdered since the start of 2015, some of them for reporting on organized crime and its links with politicians and others for covering illegal mining.

Two of the murders monitored by RSF were linked to illegal mining, a sensitive environmental subject in India. "The inadequacy of the Indian authorities' response is reinforcing the climate of impunity for violence against journalists," said the non-profit organization. India ranked 14th in last year's CPJ impunity index, thus making the list for the eight year in a row.

Cultural activists, writers and members of the Ganajagaran Mancha shout slogans as they attend a rally protesting the killing and attacks on the publisher and bloggers in Dhaka, Bangladesh 01 November 2015 (Photo: picture-alliance/epa/A. Abdullah)
Bangladesh has also seen a surge in violence against those seeking freedom of expressionImage: picture-alliance/epa/A. Abdullah

Afghanistan, Bangladesh

Although they didn't make the IFJ's top 10 list, other countries in the region such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan also pose increased threats to the lives of journalists and media workers. In Afghanistan, for instance, violence against reporters rose to an unprecedented level in 2014, with attacks up by 64 percent from the previous year, according to the Afghan media advocacy organization Nai.

More recently, in January this year, a suicide attack on a media van carrying staff from TOLO TV, an Afghanistan TV channel, killed seven media professionals - a reflection of the deteriorating security situation in a country destabilized by decades of violence.

Bangladesh has also seen a surge in violence against those seeking freedom of expression. In recent months, the South Asian nation has seen a number of attacks on bloggers and publishers carried out by suspected religious fundamentalists.

In 2015, for instance, a total of four atheist bloggers were killed for their writings criticizing Islam, leading RSF to slam the Bangladeshi authorities for what it views as a "passivity" which has "fostered a climate of impunity that is extremely dangerous for citizen-journalists."