LONDON, 31 December 2020 – A majority of the 50 journalists and media workers killed in 2020 met their demise in a country that is not at war, Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday in a report.
The number is down three compared to the 53 journalists killed in the line of duty in 2019.
Eighty-four percent of the journalists killed in 2020 were “deliberately targeted”, the report notes, highlighting cases in India, Mexico and Pakistan.
This represents an increase from the 63 percent deliberately targeted in 2019.
The majority of targeted killings claimed the lives of journalists whose reporting involved investigation of organized crime, corruption and environmental issues.
Eight journalists were killed in Mexico, the deadliest country for journalists in 2020, according to the report.
None of the Mexico killings had been punished as of year end.
Reporters Without Borders says 387 journalists were jailed in 2020, describing that figure as “a historically high number”.
In a report released earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on world leaders to release all imprisoned journalists.
CPJ praised its 2019 campaign for the early release of at least 75 imprisoned journalists in the course of that year.
CPJ’s 2020 report traced more than 200 press freedom violations disguised under the pretext of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions.
Nine African countries imprisoned no fewer than 66 journalists in 2020. They are Egypt (with 27 journalists in jail), Eritrea (16), The Cameroons (8), Ethiopia (7), Burundi and Morocco (4 each), Algeria, Mali and South Sudan (2 each).
Journalist Samuel Wazizi whose real names were Samuel Ajekah Abuwe, was tortured and kiled in military custody in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, in August 2019.
The military did not bother to notify his family until his “disappearance” led to a campaign to produce him “dead or alive”.
Under pressure from the international community and media watchdogs, Cameroonian authorities confirmed his death on 5 June 2020 – nearly ten months since he was abducted.
Press freedom violations have also been on the rise in country’s organizing hotly contested elections.
Ahead of presidential elections in Uganda on 14 January 2021, for example, there have been 16 attacks on journalists covering election-related events over the past five months, according to the Human Rights Network for Journalists, Uganda Chapter.
Journalists in Cameroon “are still… caught in a state-supported chokehold of their trade,” commented the Nairobi-based The East African newspaper on Tuesday, referencing the continued “weaponization” of libel or slander as a criminal, instead of a civil offence.
Liberia and Sierra Leone were the only two countries on the continent which in 2020 removed laws on the books that criminalize publications deemed libelous or seditious.