The number of journalists killed in the line of duty fell in 2019 to the lowest levels in seventeen years according to a report by the Citizens to Project Journalists. The drop in murders comes amid unprecedented global attention on the issue of impunity in the killing of journalists.
The murder of prominent anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruna Galizia in a car bomb explosion on 17 October 2017 in Malta shocked the European press. Two years later the Maltese prime minister was implicated after revelations of a cover-up over the murder. Another prominent case was the murder and dismemberment of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. The murder made headlines around the world. The shooting of journalist Jan Kuciak in Slovakia last year who was working on the Italian mafia and alleged embezzlement of EU funds also continues to reverberate.
It is impossible to determine whether the high-profile nature of these murders and their consequences has deterred attacks on journalists. It is known that rise in self-censorship in many places including Pakistan has intimidated many journalists from critical reporting. There are many other methods to threaten the press including legal harassment, hacking, surveillance, and smear campaigns while hundreds remained imprisoned in countries around the world.
Among other findings, it was revealed that politics was the most dangerous beat, while the most dangerous job was camera operator. However, no death of media workers was reported for the first time since 2003. Although fewer journalists were killed in retaliation for their work, there has been increased pressure on the media.
In Pakistan there has been a hue and cry over attempts to muzzle the freedom of the media. Many journalists particularly from established media companies and even freelancers have known to tone down or avoid controversial stories. There is no doubt the decline in journalists’ killings masks the decline in press freedom.