A killing field for journalists in 2007

During 2007, sixty-four journalists were killed on the job, according to a new report by the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Thirty-one of them were Iraqis.
By Menassat.com Staff
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Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq: a make-shift cemetery for victims of sectarian killing. © Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

In the Arab world, seven is a lucky number. 2007, however, was not a lucky number for journalists working in Iraq. A report released by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) listed 31 journalists killed in Iraq in 2007, representing almost half of the 64 journalists killed worldwide - the deadliest year for journalists in more than a decade.

For the fifth straight year, Iraq was the deadliest country in the world for journalists. Of note was the fact that of the 31 journalists killed in Iraq in 2007, 24 were directly targeted or murdered. The CPJ highlighted the most recent death of Salih Saif Aldin, the Washington Post reporter murdered two months ago in Baghdad from "a single gunshot wound to the head."

Identified risks for journalists in Iraq included, "mysterious gunmen, suicides and U.S. military activity."

Speaking about the situation in Iraq, Joel Simon, Executive Director with the CPJ said: “Members of the press are being hunted down and murdered with alarming regularity. They are abducted at gunpoint and found dead later or shot dead on the spot. These journalists gave their lives so that all of us could be informed about what is happening in Iraq.”

The CPJ - "an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide" - focused on journalists killed during the course of work. Another twenty-two reporters' deaths are being investigated to determine whether they were killed while reporting.

Seven journalists were killed in Iraq during "combat-related crossfire," and all but one of the journalists killed in Iraq this year were Iraqi nationals working primarily for local media. Nine were working for big western news organizations (The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Washington Post...).


Somalia ranked second on the list as most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Seven journalists were killed in Somalia in 2007, "including the back-to-back assassinations of two prominent journalists", Mahad Ahmed Elmi, director of Capital Voice radio in Mogadishu, who was shot four times in the head, and Ali Iman Sharmarke, co-owner of HornAfrik Media who was killed by a remotely detonated land mine as he left Elmi's funeral.

The continuing violence of Iraq, however, has "overshadowed the increasingly deteriorating environment for the media in Somalia,” said Simon.

Direct murder was the major cause of death for journalists worldwide in 2007. The CPJ report notes that seven out of ten reporter deaths were murders, with the rest of the deaths happening during dangerous assignments or as a result of combat-related incidents.

Deaths in Africa spiked from two journalists killed in 2006 to 10 killed this year, including one death in Zimbabwe and two deaths in Eritrea. In fact, every region of the world where there were sensitive stories to be told, journalists were being killed.

Suicide bombers caused three of five journalist deaths in Sri Lanka this year, and Muhammad Arif of ARY One World TV, was one of five journalists murdered in Pakistan over the last 11 months.

In Burma, "millions of people around the globe watched the apparently deliberate murder of Japanese photographer Kenji Nagai by Burmese troops during the crackdown on antigovernment demonstrators in Rangoon. No apparent moves have been made to bring his killer to justice."

Other countries that also made the list included Nepal, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Haiti, Honduras, and Russia. Five journalists are still missing with three missing in Mexico alone, the report states.

The CPJ is set to release a final list of journalists killed this year on January 2, 2008.