Death toll for Latin American journalists stands at 24 in the first six months of 2016

By Heloisa Aruth Sturm and Teresa Mioli

More than half of the deaths registered this year occurred in only two countries: Mexico (9) and Guatemala (5). Homicides and deaths were also reported in Honduras (3), El Salvador (3), Brazil (2) and Venezuela (2). Perpetrators were identified in only five cases.

Ten of the 24 professionals were covering cases of corruption, organized crime and local administration. At least four of them reported having been threatened.

Below, see an interactive map and learn more about the journalists who have died in Latin America so far this year.

The three most recent deaths took place within the span of a week in Mexico when two reporters were shot dead and a radio host was hit by a police car. The last case is under investigation and has not been labeled a homicide by officials.

Press freedom organizations have warned of increased violence against journalists in Mexico and also criticized the attempts of local authorities to criminalize some of the murdered journalists, as in the case of Zamira Esther Bautista and Anabel Flores Salazar, according to the Inter American Press Association and Article 19 Mexico. The number of murders of journalists in that country now exceeds the amount recorded during all of 2015.

In a press release addressing the five murders in Guatemala this year, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said that both it and the Inter-American Court “have addressed the chilling effect that crimes against journalists have on other media professionals as well as on citizens who intend to report abuses of power or unlawful acts of any kind.” It then urged the state to prevent this by quickly punishing the crimes.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF for its initials in French) attributed the high number of Latin American journalists killed this year to violence, corruption, impunity and ineffective or absent protection mechanisms(Editor’s note: RSF reported that 21 journalists were killed in Latin America in the past six months)

Many of the countries where these murders occurred are afflicted with high levels of violence in general and most cases remain unpunished. Therefore, determining the motives behind the killings of journalists, and whether their deaths are related to their work, can be an especially difficult task.

In the map below, the Knight Center has included cases of murders or uncertain deaths of journalists that have been reported in local media and by freedom of expression organizations. Most of these cases are still being investigated and motives are being determined, including whether the journalist’s death was related to their professional work. Since the investigations are ongoing, the Knight Center has included the deaths here, even though not all may be homicides or may have been motivated by their work as journalists or media workers.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.