Home Uncategorized 2022 Marked by Surge in Journalist Fatalities as Dangers Escalated

2022 Marked by Surge in Journalist Fatalities as Dangers Escalated

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2022 Marked by Surge in Journalist Fatalities as Dangers Escalated

The year 2022 marked a grim chapter for journalists globally, with a staggering toll of lives lost in the line of duty. According to the latest findings from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a total of 67 journalists and media workers fell victim to violence – the highest count since 2018, marking a nearly 50% surge from the previous year. The surge was particularly pronounced due to the heightened dangers faced by journalists covering the Ukraine conflict and a disturbing spike in killings across Latin America.

CPJ’s investigations have confirmed that at least 41 of these individuals were killed directly because of their journalistic endeavors, while motives behind the remaining 26 deaths are under scrutiny to ascertain their connection to their work.

Startlingly, over half of these fatalities – 15 in Ukraine, 13 in Mexico, and 7 in Haiti – were concentrated in just three nations, setting record highs for journalist deaths in those regions, as documented by CPJ.

In Mexico and Haiti, journalists were ruthlessly targeted and murdered in a clear attempt to silence their voices, with a disheartening lack of accountability for the perpetrators. Mexico’s recurring presence on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index serves as a stark reminder of the culture of impunity that allows the killers of journalists to evade justice.

The victims of these tragedies hailed from diverse backgrounds and covered a wide array of beats, from exposing crime and corruption in Colombia to reporting on political turmoil in Chad, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and Myanmar. Even in countries boasting democratically elected governments like Brazil, Turkey, and the United States, journalists faced perilous threats, as evidenced by the tragic deaths recorded throughout the year.

CPJ’s comprehensive tracking reveals that these deaths encompass three primary categories: targeted murders in retaliation for journalistic work – the most prevalent; fatalities occurring in combat or crossfire; and deaths during other hazardous assignments. Additionally, CPJ monitors the killings of media support staff, such as translators, drivers, and security personnel, with one such tragic incident reported in Kazakhstan in 2022.

Journalist Peril in Ukraine War Zone:
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, journalists covering the conflict have encountered extreme hazards. A total of 15 journalists lost their lives in Ukraine during the year, with 13 confirmed as killed while actively engaged in newsgathering and reporting. CPJ is currently investigating whether two additional casualties were linked to their media work amid the turmoil. While most fatalities occurred in the conflict’s early stages, the threat persists as journalists continue to face dangers such as shelling and, disturbingly, reports of being deliberately targeted by Russian forces.

Latin America’s Lethal Journalism Landscape:
Latin America emerged as the deadliest region for journalists in 2022, underscoring the considerable risks associated with reporting in this part of the world. With a total of 30 journalist deaths documented by CPJ, nearly half of the global tally, the region’s challenges are evident. Journalists covering issues ranging from crime and corruption to gang violence and environmental concerns are particularly vulnerable. Among these fatalities, at least 12 were directly related to journalistic activities, while CPJ is actively probing the motives behind 18 other deaths.

Photo credits: CPJ

In Mexico, CPJ has recorded an unprecedented 13 journalist fatalities, marking the highest toll ever documented in a single year. Three of these cases involved journalists who were targeted and murdered in retaliation for their coverage of crime and political matters. Prior to their deaths, these journalists had received threats, underscoring the dangers they faced. CPJ is currently delving into the motives behind the remaining 10 killings. However, in a country plagued by rampant violence and impunity, confirming whether these journalists were killed due to their work proves to be exceedingly challenging.


A bystander passes by a flaming blockade amidst a demonstration sparked by the passing of journalist Romelo Vilsaint in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on October 30, 2022

Meanwhile, in Haiti, journalists reporting on gang violence and the aftermath of the political crisis sparked by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 have encountered a disturbing surge in violent assaults. Throughout 2022, at least five journalists lost their lives in connection to their reporting endeavors, with CPJ actively investigating the motive behind two additional deaths. Alarmingly, two of these fatalities involved journalists being killed by law enforcement officers.

Furthermore, CPJ has documented four work-related journalist killings in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. Investigations into the motives behind the deaths of six other reporters in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Paraguay are ongoing.

Existing Protective Measures Prove Inadequate:
In Mexico, despite the presence of various laws and institutions dedicated to safeguarding journalists, the effectiveness of these mechanisms remains wanting. This was tragically exemplified in the case of Maria Guadalupe Lourdes Maldonado López, a seasoned broadcast journalist who met a fatal end when she was shot in her car in Tijuana in January 2022, despite being enrolled in the Baja California state protection program.

Similarly disheartening is the plight of Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel and Armando Linares López, both of whom were in the process of being included in Mexico’s federal protection initiative when they were brutally murdered.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, the inadequacy of protection measures was starkly revealed in October when journalist Rafael Emiro Moreno Garavito was fatally shot by assailants while at his fast-food establishment. Moreno, the director of independent news outlet Voces De Córdoba, had long been targeted for his investigative work exposing political corruption and drug-trafficking organizations. Despite being assigned a bodyguard and provided with protective gear and an emergency panic button by the Colombian government’s National Protection Unit, Moreno tragically chose not to avail of protection on the day he was killed, expressing disbelief in the necessity of such measures while at his restaurant.


Israeli Impunity Highlighted by Murder of Shireen Abu Akleh

The killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May 2022 shed light on Israel’s apparent impunity for crimes against the press. Abu Akleh was fatally shot while reporting on an Israeli military operation in the Palestinian city of Jenin. Witnesses and multiple investigations pointed to an Israeli soldier as the perpetrator, with a U.S. State Department inquiry suggesting that gunfire from Israeli Defense Forces’ positions likely caused Abu Akleh’s death, though it found no evidence of intent.

However, the Israeli government has yet to conduct a transparent investigation or take action against those responsible. The announcement by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in November to open an investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing was welcomed by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Abu Akleh’s murder comes after Israeli forces bombed media buildings in the Gaza Strip in 2021, including offices of The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera. Despite CPJ’s requests for evidence supporting Israel’s claims of military use by Hamas militants and reaffirmation of journalists’ rights in Gaza, the Israeli government has remained unresponsive.

This incident also recalls the deaths of Palestinian journalists Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein in 2018, who were shot and killed by Israeli snipers while covering Gaza demonstrations. A U.N. commission later determined that the shootings were intentional. However, Israeli authorities have not clarified any investigative efforts or actions taken against those responsible for their deaths.

Local Journalists Covering Politics, Crime, and Corruption Remain Frequent Targets for Violence.
Out of the 19 journalists murdered in retaliation for their work in 2022, 18 were individuals reporting on sensitive issues such as politics, crime, or corruption within their respective countries.

In the Philippines, all four murders of journalists were radio reporters focusing on local political matters. These incidents underscore the perilous environment for journalists in the country, particularly evident during the transition to the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in June. Among these cases, the killing of radio commentator Percival Mabasa in October sparked outrage and prompted protests from journalists. Police later alleged that high-ranking officials from the Bureau of Corrections were behind Mabasa’s murder in retaliation for his exposés on corruption.

The year also marked the tragic death of a U.S. reporter, Jeff German of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who covered politics, crime, and corruption. German was fatally stabbed in September 2022 by a local official who had lost a reelection bid following German’s investigative reporting on alleged mismanagement in his office. The official was promptly apprehended and is currently facing murder charges.

Additionally, Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif, known for his coverage of corruption in Pakistan, met a similar fate in 2022. Sharif, a former TV anchor, was shot dead by Kenyan police near Nairobi in October. Pakistani investigators have characterized his killing as a “planned targeted assassination,” refuting the Kenyan police’s claim of mistaken identity.

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