More than 2,000 journalists killed worldwide in 25 years; Mexico is the third deadliest country, says IFJ

Mexico is the third deadliest country for journalists and other media workers in the world with 120 murders in the last 25 years, according to a report from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) that was released Feb. 3.

In the report on journalists and media workers killed since 1990, IFJ analyzes the increasing violence against journalists over the past 25 years and the impact it has had on high levels of impunity.

According to the report, 2,297 journalists and other media workers have been killed while covering different events like wars, revolutions, crimes and acts of corruption, among others.

This figure includes the 112 journalists killed in 2015; of these, 27 killings took place in the Americas.

The overall list is led by Iraq with 309 dead, most of which occurred in 2003. This is followed by the Philippines with 146 murders and Mexico (120) which in recent years has become one of the most dangerous countries for the exercise of journalism because the country "fell into the grip of violence from organized crime, drug barons and their accomplices with states’ administrations," the report says.

In 2015 alone, there were 8 journalists killed in Mexico.

But it is not the only country in the hemisphere on the list. In fact, the American region is the third most dangerous in the world with a total of 472 media workers killed since 1990.

Brazil, for example, ranks tenth in the list with 62 murders. Colombia (56 homicides), Honduras (39), Peru (36) and Guatemala (36) were also identified as being dangerous for journalists.

The armed conflict in Colombia, which reached its peak in the 90s, turned the country into "a killing field" when journalists "were targeted by paramilitary groups, the rebels and even the government's own security forces which went to extreme lengths in their attempts to silence press freedom," the report said.

Meanwhile, since the coup of 2009 in Honduras, "men of violence have set their sights on journalists and media staff as the political climate became dramatically tense and aggressive," the report continued. With five cases registered, the country again placed second, the place it held in 2014, in the ranking of murders of journalists in Latin America in 2015.

Greater violence, greater impunity

The level of violence against the press and its workers has worsened since IFJ began to keep track of the murders. During that first year, 1990, IFJ recorded 40 deaths.

The last 10 years were especially dangerous for media workers. The worst was 2006 with 155 murders, 37 of which took place in the Americas. And since 2010, the annual figure has never been less than 100.

While it is true that many of these deaths occur in the context of war or armed conflict - including "targeted killings, bomb attacks, crossfire incidents and increasingly violent premeditated kidnappings" - the high numbers have other causes.

"It is a recurring finding of our reports that there are many more killed in peace time situations that in war-stricken countries," said Anthony Bellanger, secretary general of IFJ, according to its website. According to Bellanger, journalists are "victims of organized crime barons and corrupt officials."

This conclusion is strengthened when looking at the top ten deadliest countries, which mostly are not at war or in the midst of armed conflict.

The second major conclusion is that impunity is a catalyst for violence against journalists.

"Ironically, the most shocking statistic may well be that the number of investigations into journalists' killings and prosecutions of killers and masterminds," the report said. "The IFJ estimates that only one of ten killings is investigated."

It is noteworthy that every organization that defends freedom of expression and the press uses different mechanisms to record the murders of journalists and their connection with the exercise of their profession. For this reason, the numbers presented by the FIP may not match those of other organizations on which the Knight Center has reported.

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.