Report: 2022 a Perilous Year for Journalists

Published: 17 December 2022

Shireen Abu Akleh CNNShireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist, was killed while reporting on an Israeli raid on the West Bank town of Jenin in May 2022. (Photo: Alisdare Hickson, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Being a journalist has never been more dangerous, according to the most recent Reporters Without Borders (RSF) annual round-up of violence and abuses against journalists, which says that “a record total of 533 journalists are currently detained worldwide.”

The number of journalists being held in connection with their jobs represents a 13.4 percent increase over the previous year, the organization said in a statement Wednesday, citing data collected in its global survey of journalists and media workers.

The report by RSF, an international non-profit and non-governmental organization that protects the right to information, has warned that the number of journalists killed this year has risen to 57, an 18.8 percent increase compared to 2021. Another 65 journalists are being held hostage and 49 are missing.

The news that eight journalists were killed in the first six months of the war in Ukraine was perhaps to be expected. More surprising was the fact that more than 60 percent of journalist killings occurred in countries deemed to be at peace in 2022.

Most of those killings were linked to organized crime and corruption, including abuse of authority, influence peddling, payment of bribes, and questionable actions by officials or politicians. Those topics are “the most dangerous subjects for journalists to investigate,” according to the report.

In Mexico alone, 11 journalists were slain, or nearly 20 percent of the total killed worldwide, according to the report.

“Mexico’s figures, along with Haiti’s (with six killed) and Brazil’s (with three killed) helped turn the Americas into the world’s most dangerous region for the media, with nearly half (47.4 percent) of the total number of journalists killed worldwide in 2022,” it said.

Some of the killings, according to the report, were extremely brutal, like the murder of Dom Phillips, a British journalist who was investigating the attempts by local Indigenous groups to combat poaching, illegal gold mining and deforestation in Brazil. His dismembered body was found in June in a remote part of the Brazilian Amazon, together with the body of Bruno Pereira, an indigenous expert.

Another troubling aspect, according to RSF, is the record number of female journalists detained.

“A total of 78 are currently held, a record-breaking rise of nearly 30 percent compared to 2021. Women now account for nearly 15 percent of detained journalists, compared to fewer than seven percent five years ago,” read the report.

China and Iran lead the pack in jailing journalists.

“China, where censorship and surveillance have reached extreme levels, continues to be the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with a total of 110 currently being held,” according to RSF.

Huang Xueqin, a freelance journalist who covers corruption, industrial pollution, and female harassment, is said to be among those on the list.

The report also noted that the number of journalists detained in Iran significantly increased following the country’s massive protests. It said that Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, two female journalists “who had helped draw attention to the death of the young Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini,” were among the first journalists detained.

Both Hamedi and Mohammadi are now facing death sentences, warned the RSF.

“Dictatorial and authoritarian regimes are filling their prisons faster than ever by jailing journalists,” according to Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General.

He said the record high number of journalists detained shows the compelling and urgent necessity to oppose those unscrupulous governments and to extend “active solidarity to all those who embody the ideal of journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism.”