The improved security in Iraq has had benefits
for everyone there. This has included fewer Iraqi civilian deaths, US casualties,
and, says a new report, journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) release said that 41 journalists
worldwide were killed this year. And while Iraq has improved, it is still the
deadliest nation in the world for journalists, as it has been for nearly six
"The 11 deaths recorded in Iraq in 2008, while a sharp drop from prior
years, remained among the highest annual tolls in CPJ history," said the
release from the New York-based group dedicated to protecting press freedom
News media workers had their best year, down to the lowest number killed since
2003 when the Iraq invasion was launched. Forty-one journalists were also killed
But the years between have been trying ones for journalists across the globe,
and particularly in Iraq.
A record 32 journalists working in Iraq were killed each year in 2006 and 2007,
said the release. Globally, 56 and 65 journalists were killed each year, respectively,
according to CPJ.
In 2004 and 2005, 60 and 46 journalists, respectively, were killed worldwide.
In the five years before 2003, between 20 and 40 journalists were killed each
year, according to CPJ reports from previous years.
The journalists who CPJ interviewed said that the lower death totals in Iraq
reflect several elements of a new US counterinsurgency strategy undertaken in
2007, collectively known by the moniker of its massive troop escalation aspect:
These factors were the troop escalation itself, tens of thousands of extra
US boots on the ground; the Sahwa, or Awakening, the rejection of al Qaeda by
Sunni groups that cooperated with and were supported by the US; a ceasefire
declared by anti-occupation Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr and his followers;
and the de facto ethnic cleansing that began with the post-invasion chaos and
came to fruition as a stabilizing force once largely accomplished.
And as things cooled off in Iraq, so did the Western media presence, said CPJ.
Fewer journalists meant fewer media targets and fewer journalists in dangerous
But even with a smaller Western presence, Iraqi journalists remained at work,
and, often, it seems, in danger.
"All of the journalists killed in Iraq in 2008 were local reporters working
for domestic news outlets," said the CPJ release.
The deaths included Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate head Shihab al-Tamimi in Baghdad,
and Livin magazine reporter Soran Mama Hama in Kirkuk. Both were targeted attacks.
Two media support workers were also killed in Iraq this year.
But Iraq wasn't the only place where local reporters were killed, said the
"More than 90 percent of those killed were local journalists covering
the news for local, regional, and international news outlets," it said.
The danger to journalists, as one might expect, also follows the geographic
ebb and flow of fighting around the globe.
"The 2008 death toll reflected a shift in global hotspots, as high numbers
of deaths were reported in restive areas of Asia and Caucasus," said the
Three journalists were killed in the five days of fighting between Georgia
and Russia over the breakaway proving of South Ossetia.
Three reporters also died in the civil unrest in Thailand this year, where
the prime minister was ousted and demonstrations later in the year closed the
Attacks aimed at journalists remain the greatest threat to their lives.
"Murder remained the leading cause of work-related deaths: Twenty-eight
of those killed in 2008 were targeted," said the report.
Journalists often became targets after they had reported on controversial stories,
such as local prostitution rings or the Afghan drug trade.
Mexico, which, according to CPJ, is the most dangerous location for reporters
in the Americas, saw one journalist "killed in direct relation to his work",
and four others were killed in unclear circumstances.
(Inter Press Service)