NEW YORK - Impunity for the murders of journalists is still overwhelmingly the norm in more than a dozen countries with rampant crime, conflict or corruption, a new Committee to Protect Journalists report warns.
The study entitled, “Getting Away with Murder” was released Tuesday ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, which is on Nov. 2.
In the past decade, 318 journalists have been targeted and killed for their work across the globe, the report found. Of those cases, some 243 perpetrators have gone unpunished.
“Rampant impunity sends a message to would-be killers of journalists that they can get away with the crime,” said Elana Beiser, CPJ Editorial Director. “It also sends an intimidating message to journalists and can lead them to censor their own reporting out of concern for their safety, which in turn leaves members of the public in the dark.”
Thirteen countries account for more than three quarters of all unsolved murders of journalists globally. The list is topped by Somalia for the fifth consecutive year. The country, which is battling al-Shabaab terrorists, has 25 unsolved murders of reporters. It has been on the list since it was created in 2008.
The index does not include cases of journalists killed in combat or on dangerous assignments.
Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and the Philippines round out the top five countries where these crimes go unpunished.
“In most cases, genuine investigations are lacking,” Beiser said. “Corruption, weak institutions, and lack of political will are all factors behind impunity.”
The study’s authors calculated the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population to determine its ranking.
CPJ cited the deadly ambush on a group of 58 people that included 32 journalists and media workers in Ampatuan, Maguindanao in November 2009 as the reason for the Philippines’ long-time place on the impunity index. The politically-motivated massacre led to the single largest death toll of journalists in one incident anywhere in the world.
Of the 197 persons charged in the brutal slayings, Philippine news site Rappler reports that 97 remain in detention, nine have been cleared and 80 are still at-large. The trial ended in July and Rappler quoted the Philippine Justice Secretary as saying in August that a verdict could come before the Nov. 23 ten-year anniversary of the murders.
Mexico, which is the deadliest country for journalists so far this year – five have been murdered there – has seen its impunity rate rise each year, CPJ said. It held steady at number 7 on the index.
The report expresses concern that regions once considered safe for media are now seeing anti-press violence. It pointed to the 2017 car bombing that killed a blogger in Malta and the 2018 murder of a Slovakian journalist. No one has been convicted in either case.
One of the report’s few bright spots is Colombia, which was number 8 on the index last year. This year, it is the only country in the top rankings to leave the index.