World death toll for journalists shoots up in 2009 despite safety calls


World death toll for journalists shoots up in 2009 despite safety calls

Brussels, January 5 - More than 130 journalists and support staff died trying to cover the news in 2009 despite repeated international calls for action to constrain the bloodshed.

The worldwide total of 132 dead in 35 countries, recorded by the International News Safety Institute, was one of the worst yearly tolls on record.

It was boosted by the slaying of 31 people in a politically-motivated ambush in the Philippines on 23 November, the bloodiest single incident ever recorded for the news media. That made the Philippines by far the most dangerous country in the world for the news media with a total of 37 dead over the year

More than 400 news media have now died trying to cover the story since the end of 2006 when the UN Security Council unanimously passed landmark Resolution 1738 which demanded greater safety for journalists in conflict areas and called for an end to impunity for their killers. Similar appeals have been made time and again by UNESCO and the Council of Europe.

By far the greatest number of those who died last year -- 98 -- were targeted, murdered because of their work. Over the past decade fewer than 8 out of 10 of the killers of journalists have been brought to justice.

As always, the great majority of the casualties in 2009 were not international war correspondents but local journalists working in their own countries, mostly in peacetime, covering dangerous stories such as high level crime and corruption.

"Journalists continue to die because they dare to shine a light on the darkest corners of societies," said INSI Director Rodney Pinder. "This is the shocking price we pay for our news.

"And this unacceptable situation will persist as long as killers of journalists walk free.

"Again, we call on the United Nations to help enforce Resolution 1738 and on all member states to respect its provisions and prosecute the murderers.

"Free societies everywhere are undermined whenever a journalist is slain because of their work."

After murder, the biggest cause of death for news personnel in 2009 was accidents with 23 fatalities, the INSI figures show. Eleven news men and women died in "crossfire" incidents such as random shootings, roadside bombings and aerial bombardment which did not appear to be directed specifically at them.

After the Philippines, the bloodiest countries in 2009 were Mexico with 11 killed, Somalia and Russia with 9 each, Pakistan with 8 and Iraq with 5.

"The one encouraging statistic over the past couple of years has been the dramatic fall in killings in Iraq," Pinder said.

"It was the most dangerous country in the world for the news media for five years after the US-led invasion in 2003, but journalists are now benefiting from a general reduction in violence there. This demonstrates that even the direst situations can improve."

Nevertheless, INSI now counts 257 news media dead in the Iraq conflict -- the bloodiest for news men and women in modern times.

The year had barely begun when the first journalist fell. Radio Shabelle reporter Hassan Mayow Hassan was gunned down by a member of a pro-government militia in Somalia. Hassan was covering clashes between Islamist militants and armed groups supporting the federal transitional government when a militiaman confronted him.

Hassan identified himself as a journalist and the militiaman shot him twice in the head.

The year also ended badly. On 30 December, Canadian journalist Michelle Lang, 34, was killed along with four Canadian soldiers by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and Indian freelance photojournalist Aman Kashyap was run over by a train in Ghaziabad while taking pictures of fog-bound rail services.

INSI's detailed list of fatal incidents in 2009 can be found at

As a safety organisation, INSI records all causes of death, whether deliberate, accidental or health-related, of all news media staff and freelancers while on assignment or as a result of their news organisation being attacked because of its role.

Other journalist support groups that are members of INSI maintain separate records based on their own criteria. They are:

The International Federation of Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists

The International Press Institute

The World Association of Newspapers

Any questions about this news release should be addressed to Rodney Pinder, email or mobile +44 7734 709267.