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RSF: 2017 least deadly year for journalists since 2003 - but 65 were killed and 370 are jailed or held hostage for doing their jobs

Some 65 journalists were killed worldwide last year in connection with their work, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

This made it the least deadly year for journalists since 2003 according to the global press freedom charity.

But the number of women journalists killed doing their jobs last year doubled, from five to ten.

Most of these female victims were experienced investigative reporters. Despite threats, they continued to investigate and expose cases of corruption.

Women journalists killed in 2017 included Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, Gauri Lankesh in India and Miroslava Breach Velducea in Mexico.

RSF reports that some 326 journalists are currently held in prison and 54 are held hostage by armed non-state groups. China is the biggest jailer of journalists (52) followed by Turkey with 43, according to RSF.

Syria was the deadliest country for journalists last year (with 12 killed) followed by Mexico (11), Afghanistan (9) and Iraq (8).

The Islamic State group is currently holding 22 journalists and media workers hostage, including (it is believed) Briton John Cantlie.

RSF’s UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent said: “More journalists are being deliberately targeted for their work (60 per cent) with the other 40 per cent killed in the field doing their jobs.

“Journalists are targeted by those wishing to silence their reporting exposing political, economic, or criminal interests – information that is in the public interest.

On reasons for the fall in killings, she said: “Our data shows that journalists are fleeing the most dangerous places – which are becoming increasingly dangerous – and foreign journalists are travelling less frequently to these places.

“At the same time, international attention to the issue of safety of journalists has increased, for example through a number of UN resolutions, and media outlets are taking greater care in providing training to their correspondents travelling to high risk areas.”

RSF is looking to improve the situation by advocating for the appointment of a UN special representative on the safety of journalists.

Vincent said: “We want to ensure the UN machinery and the international legal system is fully focused on this issue. In too many cases we see impunity and that allows this vicious cycle to continue.”

She cited the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed by a car bomb in Malta on 16 October, adding: “There have been some arrests in that case to date, but we continue to call for a fully independent and impartial investigation, and for all of those involved – the perpetrators of the attack and the masterminds behind it – to be brought to justice.

“Daphne was investigating corruption of Maltese officials, she refused to be silenced and was targeted very deliberately because of that. Her murder will have an immeasurable chilling effect, not just in Malta, but around the world.”

Asked what journalists in the UK can do to help, she said: “Here in the UK more attention to these issues is needed. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get coverage of stories related to journalism, particularly on cases without a clear UK link, as we currently seem very internally focused as a country.

“But the whole world watches the British media, and coverage here can help considerably in cases like Daphne’s.”

Read the RSF 2017 round-up in full.

This piece was produced in association with Reporters Without Borders which is a sponsor of the British Journalism Awards.

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