In the Philippines, radio commentator Edgar Damaliero was slain by a gunman riding tandem on the back of a motorcycle. Damaliero was killed instantly with a single shot.
In Brazil, investigative reporter Tim Lopes was working undercover when drug dealers discovered his identity and stabbed him to death after putting him through a mock trial.
In Russia, business reporter Natalya Skryl was attacked while walking home at night. She was struck in the head with a blunt object about a dozen times and died in the hospital the next day.
In countries around the world last year, a total of 19 journalists were killed for their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most of them were targeted in direct reprisal for their reporting, and most of their killers had not been brought to justice by year’s end.
The 2002 tally might look high, but it is actually the lowest number of journalists killed in the line of duty that CPJ has recorded since it began tracking deaths in 1985. Last year’s number marks a sharp decrease from 2001, when 37 journalists were killed, eight of them while covering the war in Afghanistan.
The dramatic drop in the number of journalists killed for their work can be partially attributed to a decline in the number of world conflicts. According to CPJ research, a direct correlation exists between the number of journalists killed on the job and the incidents of violent conflict, which can give those who target journalists the ability to do so with impunity because of the instability that war fosters. In 1994, for example, 66 journalists were targeted for their work while civil wars raged in Algeria, Bosnia, and Rwanda.
Another factor in the decreasing number of journalists’ deaths may be the international attention that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder early last year garnered. In the wake of Pearl’s death, journalists’ safety became a priority for news organizations. Many sent their staff to hostile-environment training, and reporters were better prepared in the field. Bulletproof vests may have saved the lives of two journalists in Venezuela and another in the West Bank, where three other journalists from NBC News survived being shot because they were driving an armored vehicle.
Still, in 2002, journalists remained at great risk. In countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines, local journalists were killed in direct reprisal for their reporting on crime and corruption, most of them with impunity. Cameramen and photographers were especially vulnerable to cross fire and targeting by military forces – five were killed in 2002, including two who were covering conflict in the West Bank.
Journalists in Russia and Colombia die virtually every year in the line of duty, and 2002 was no exception. Three journalists were killed for their work in Russia last year: An editor of a newspaper known for its coverage of organized crime was shot eight times at point-blank range; a cameraman died in cross fire covering the fighting near the Chechen border; and a business reporter was bludgeoned to death on her way home.
In Colombia, three journalists also died in the line of duty: The owner of a radio station and host of programs that criticized all sides of Colombia’s civil war was pulled from his car, shot and killed; a newspaper columnist who wrote about human rights abuses was shot in the head while walking to work; and a cameraman was killed in cross fire while covering fighting between the army and a paramilitary group.
In addition to the 19 cases described below, CPJ continues to investigate four journalists who are missing and 13 others whose killings may have been related to their professional work.
Abi Wright is communications coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.