Syria and Palestine top two deadliest countries for journalists: RWB

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A caricature by Alfredo Martirena depicting the death of Mexican journalist Marco Antonio Ávila Garcia, who died while being tortured by a drug cartel.

By: Zainab Hawi

Published Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In its annual report issued yesterday, December 16, Reporters Without Borders listed Syria as one of the most dangerous places for journalists. The international organization mentioned five figures as cases that marked 2014, including Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azaoui, Saudi activist Raef Badawi, and US journalist James Foley, whose execution video shocked the world.

Although the number of journalists killed dropped by seven percent (66 journalists) compared to last year – according to the annual report released by Reporters Without Borders – the number of kidnapped journalists reached 119 (a 35 percent increase since last year). The report, which included alarming numbers, specified the various threats to journalists around the world. The report shows that the number of arrested journalists was 853, while the number of journalists threatened or attacked stood at 1,846. The primary threat to journalists in 2014 was terrorist organizations, namely the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The report described the execution of journalists by these groups as a “barbaric sense of propaganda.”

Syria received its fair share of coverage in terms of violent incidents. According to the report, Syria “continues to be the world’s deadliest country for journalists,” followed by Palestine, specifically Gaza, then Ukraine and Libya. The report, which made no mention of Lebanon, pointed to a remarkable rise in the percentage of women journalists killed this year, namely in the Central African Republic, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, and the Philippines.

The report also talked about a rise in the number of female journalists kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Egypt and Libya, the chief cause of which was ISIS’ offensive in Iraq and Syria, and the turmoil in Libya, where the clashes between rival militias have not let up.

According to the report, the most dangerous areas in the world for journalists are Iraq and Syria, since ISIS controls a large part of their territories, particularly the city of Mosul, where a “climate of terror” prevails, and the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, where ISIS has imposed a set of 11 rules for journalists that include swearing allegiance to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Libya returned to the list of most dangerous places for journalists, since “three journalists were gunned down on the street in the space of five months in 2014. The youngest was 18.”

As for imprisoned journalists, China came first, followed by Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and Iran. Egypt entered the top five in 4th position (with 9 percent), under what the report called the “authoritarian regime” led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

After presenting a summary of the oppression, torture, and killings of journalists, both local and foreign, the report mentioned five figures that marked the year 2014, three of them are:

- Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azaoui, who worked for Sama Salah Aldeen, was killed in October by ISIS in his Iraqi hometown of Samra (in the Salahuddin province north of Baghdad).

- Raef Badawi (1984), a Saudi citizen-journalist and winner of the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Prize, has been held since 2012 on a charge of “insulting Islam” for promoting liberal ideas on his website, the Liberal Saudi Network. He was sentenced by a Riyadh court in September to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a heavy fine.

- US journalist James Foley (40) was executed by ISIS in August. After the video was posted and shared on social networking sites, there were calls for the video to be removed so it would not serve as propaganda or an intimidation tool by the terrorist group.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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