In 2014, 61 journalists were killed while covering the news, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Many more were wounded, beaten, taken hostage. Once welcomed as the voice of truth and fairness and the public eyewitness to history, journalists today are targets. With the killing of eight journalists in Paris in January, it is clear that the attacks on journalists are no longer limited to conflict zones.
Journalists deaths over the decades
The death toll for journalists has increased dramatically since AP’s creation in 1846 — particularly in the last 35 years as conflict has spread around the world and coverage of war has become ever more dangerous.Chart data from the Newseum Journalist Memorial and CPJ. View the desktop version for the full interactive graph.
- AP journalist
With our global footprint, gathering news in more than 100 countries, The Associated Press sees these dangers close-up every day. Among our staffers lost last year was photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was shot point blank by an Afghan policeman charged with protecting her.
The Associated Press takes the safety of its staff very seriously. Our global security team continually visits and updates security at all our worldwide locations, particularly those in conflict zones. Reporters covering dangerous situations, from Afghanistan to the front lines of the Ebola outbreak, carry the most recent safety equipment and receive intensive hostile environment training.
Two of the AP staff killed last year — videographer Simone Camilli and translator Ali Abu Afash — died as they covered a story about unexploded ordnance in Gaza when one of the bombs went off, after the Israeli-Palestinian war. An AP photographer, Hatem Moussa, was gravely injured at the same time and is still recuperating. Kathy Gannon, who was reporting with Anja Niedringhaus in Afghanistan and shot by the same gunman, is also still recovering.
There will always be certain risks to covering news firsthand, but there are further legal steps that can be taken to protect journalists. Under existing international law — the Geneva Conventions and additional protocols since then — journalists are considered civilians in conflicts between states. The most recent action involving journalist safety occurred in 2013 when the United Nations adopted a resolution condemning attacks on journalists and underlining the obligations of nations to bring perpetrators to justice.
But as the nature of both war and media have changed dramatically in recent years, these protocols no longer address the increasingly perilous challenges facing journalists. With each country responsible for investigating and prosecuting those who kill journalists, it is a patchwork system at best. Only 10 percent of journalists’ killers are ever brought to justice, according to CPJ.
Impunity for those who kill journalists only empowers them. AP believes there needs to be a new international legal mechanism for protecting journalists — one that makes killing journalists or taking them hostage a war crime.
The growing challenges to journalists’ ability to gather news should be a worldwide cause for concern. When independent media cannot provide firsthand original reporting, freedom suffers. A free press is the most powerful bulwark between tyranny and democracy, holding governments accountable and providing trustworthy eyewitness news that lets people make informed and responsible choices.