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There is no doubt internationally that journalism is a dangerous and deadly profession. Those who expose, or threaten to expose, are vulnerable in what is a violent world.
We in New Zealand are fortunate. State and criminal interests do not have a history of such violence, and the rule of law and culture mean such action would likely be seriously counterproductive.
That is not to dismiss the possibility of lower-level harassment and abuse. Who knows what takes place, and online access and social media has made it all the easier to threaten and malign. Hot-heated individuals who believe fanatically in their causes can be the worst.
Trade association the International Federation of Journalists this week said in its 2018 annual report that 94 journalists and media workers died in targeted killings, bomb attacks and conflict crossfire last year — 12 more than in 2017.
After falls in five of the past six years, the number has increased again. The worst places are in conflict zones or because of organised crime.
For some time Syria and Iraq were the deadliest.
Last year Afghanistan at 16 was followed by Mexico (11), Yemen nine and Syria eight.
India and the United States had seven each, the US rising in the rankings because of the incident at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland. A man threatened the newspaper after he lost a defamation case. He shot four journalists and a sales associate.
The high-profile killing last year was of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. In this case, the fallout for the Saudi Crown Prince might be enough to make some others think twice about brazen murder for the sake of silencing a critic.
Sadly, however, according to Unesco figures, only about one in 10 cases is concluded with perpetrators brought to justice each year. Most killed journalists, about 90%, are also locals rather than foreign correspondents, and about 20% are likely to be freelancers. They are likely to have less protection and support than those directly employed by media organisations.
Journalists Federation president Philippe Leruth said journalists were targeted because they were witnesses. And when many journalists were killed, self-censorship increased.The federation said risk extended beyond reporting war zones and covering extremist movements.
"There were other factors, such as the increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption and crime, as well as the breakdown of law and order."
The threat to journalists from endemic crime is well known, as Mexico and its gang issues illustrate.
Anti-media rhetoric might not be directly linked to the rise in murders, but it helps create a negative and more dangerous climate.
Meanwhile, persecution of journalism continues apace in all its forms. Arbitrary detention, with Turkey leading the way, is commonplace. Smears, website attacks, harassment, surveillance, intimidation, disinformation and technical attacks threaten journalists.
Media — weaknesses and all and there plenty of those — are a vital part of a free society. The public needs both to understand and support that view because without effective journalism we would all be much the poorer.
Thus, President Donald Trump’s disparaging and anti-media attitudes and comments help set the stage internationally for state and private attacks on the media. The atmosphere at his rallies where reporters were corralled and his supporters encouraged to taunt and threaten them is virulent.
Populism, often tied to xenophobic nationalism, is dangerous. Abusing and blaming the media is its default position. That must be guarded against, even in relatively mild forms sometimes found in this country. When the messenger is attacked, be suspicious. A high degree of dedication and sheer bravery is required by many journalists in many parts of the world. We admire such courage, and we yearn for a world where journalists are not killed for doing their job.