The balance of Reporters Without Borders is cruel. Yes, a strong word, how strong must be the reaction of those who imagine the job of a reporter. The non-governmental organization (RSF) reports of about 110 journalists killed in 2015, bearing in mind that two-thirds of these victims died in countries where there was peace. It should be noted, therefore, the huge growth of non-state armed groups, which increasingly put to death those who make information and news.
If we compare these numbers with the previous year – 2014 – the situation was quite opposite to the current one: if in 2014 two-thirds of the reporter was killed in war zones, in the year that is about to end the balance is totally reversed. There is much to ask, therefore, to understand what is happening in these countries which, according to official sources, are not teared by any official conflict.
These news about 2015 were given by Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF, who – due to the reality previously described – tried to sensitise the authorities to create a concrete reality enable to protect journalists and their profession.
The data to dwell upon is the number of deaths in the absence of war. Why? What are the real causes? What are the dynamics that underlie this phenomenon? Clearly for reporters today it is not enough to keep the eyes open for atrocities perpetrated by ISIS. It is no longer sufficient.
Reporters Dead in 2015
110 is the toll of journalists who died in 2015: 67 of them while they were on duty, and the remaining 43 without a real cause, and therefore their death is still a mystery. On the territories of war there is little to say, and the public is aware of this fact. In war you die and being a reporter in the middle of a conflict means first of all putting yourself at risk for a huge scope. However, for all those countries in which there is no official conflict, there is probably the need to say something more. These are the kind of countries where the tension between the press and organized crime is skyrocketing. Criminal organizations fear the media and oppose it to the point of threatening journalists to death, until they eventually kill them.
At the international level nowadays, the greatest threat left to reporters is the Caliphate, the jihadists, the Islamic state. The Middle East is a powder keg where journalists in service – professional or not – put their lives at risk every day. In this view, Christophe Deloire says: “We must appoint a special representative of the UN Secretary-General to protect reporters.”. An institutionalised figure who can provide security to a profession more than ever at risk.
Among the international countries highlighted for the highest levels of risk, there are many who are well known. You go from Iraq – with 11 reporters killed – Syria and Yemen with 10 casualties among media workers. Yemen today is presenting the world yet another outbreak of war. The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is increasingly violent. Then there are other countries like India and South Sudan who show deep wounds caused by internal conflicts or by non-state organizations. Finally, a new entry from the European country: for the first time the Old World feels really threatened by an enemy, “not just an external one.” It is France, after the attacks perpetrated against the Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan, respectively, on Jan. 7, 2015 and November 13 of 2015.
In the countries affected by the illegal drug traffic the situation is not much better. It is the case of Mexico, a country in which everybody is equally at risk: both those professionals who denounce the underworld of drug traffickers, and also the civilians who live in high-risk contexts. The balance for Mexico is 8 reporter dead in 2015, and for the same reason there were 7 victims in the Philippines and Honduras.
Then there is the plague of kidnappings. It is certainly not marginal or second order, the number of reporters held hostage by criminal organisations. If we only look at 2015, about 54 journalists were kidnapped, and 154 were arrested for the charges of “having done their job.” The number of abductions allows us to trace a red line, beyond which the phenomenon presents a higher concentration. We find 26 reporters kidnapped in Syria, 13 in Yemen, 10 in Iraq and five in Libya. Leaving aside the latter and examining the remaining three, we can understand how the area most at risk remains again the Middle East.
In terms of arrests by state authorities, the numbers certainly do not diminish but rather soar considerably. China is the country where in 2015 there was the greatest opposition to the media, with 23 reporters arrested. It follows Egypt’s al-Sisi with 22 arrests, then Iraq with 18, Eritrea with 15 and finally Erdogan’s Turkey with 9 journalists jailed.
Mathematics at times is not just a simple matter of computing. It claims to be considered like a metaphor, which contains a much greater significance. So what is the situation today for the reporters? What is the future that lies ahead? News certainly can not die, just as we cannot censor all information. An organ that ensures their safety is perhaps the first step to defend this great profession.