19 Journalists Killed for Their Work in 2002

3 January 2003
Source: Committee to Protect Journalists

Lowest number on record; Russia, Colombia, and the West Bank top list

A total of 19 journalists were killed worldwide for their work in 2002, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). This number marks a sharp decrease from 2001 when 37 journalists were killed, eight of them while covering the war in Afghanistan. Of the 19 journalists killed in 2002, most were targeted in direct reprisal for their work, and their killers had not been brought to justice at year’s end.

This is the lowest number of journalists killed in the line of duty that CPJ has recorded since it began tracking the deaths in 1985. The dramatic drop is 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 incidence 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 result of 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, journalist safety became a priority for news organizations; many sent their staff to hostile-environment training, and reporters were better prepared in the field. At least two journalists survived being shot in the West Bank last spring because they were wearing flak jackets, while in Venezuela, bulletproof vests saved the lives of two more journalists.

Still, in 2002, journalists remained at great risk. In countries such as Russia, Colombia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, local journalists were murdered 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.

“While we are encouraged to see the number of deaths decrease this year, journalists are still being targeted and assassinated for doing their jobs,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Drug traffickers in Brazil, paramilitary groups in Colombia, and corrupt politicians in the Philippines are trying to silence journalists through intimidation and murder, and it
has to stop.”

In addition to the 19 cases described in this report, CPJ continues to investigate four journalists who are missing and 13 others whose killings may have been related to their professional work.

Russia and Colombia: perennial offenders Some statistics fluctuate from year to year, but others remain constant in such countries as Russia and Colombia, where journalists die virtually every year because of their work. Three journalists were killed for their work in Russia in 2002: 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.