The murders are becoming more and more barbaric and the number of abductions is growing rapidly!
Aside from a slight fall in the number of journalists killed in connection with their work, the Reporters Without Borders round-up for 2014 highlights an evolution in the nature of violence against journalists and the way certain kinds, including carefully-staged threats and beheadings, are being used for very clear purposes.
The murders are becoming more and more barbaric and the number of abductions is growing rapidly, with those carrying them out seeking to prevent independent news coverage and deter scrutiny by the outside world. Exposed to such diverse forms of intimidation, twice as many journalists fled into exile this year as in 2013.
The annual round-up of violence and abuses against journalists that Reporters Without Borders has been publishing since 1995 is based on precise data that RWB gathers in the course of its monitoring. It includes figures for both professional and citizen-journalists killed in connection with their reporting. RWB continues to investigate cases when it has not yet gathered enough information to reach a clear determination.
CASES THAT MARKED 2014
- Raad Azaoui — An Iraqi cameraman working for Sama Salah Aldeen TV, Raad Mohamed Al-Azaoui was publicly executed on 10 October for refusing to cooperate with Islamic State, which tolerates only dead or compliant journalists. Aged 36 and a father, he was executed together with his brother and two other civilians in the IS-controlled Iraqi city of Samara a month after being captured along with around 20 other Iraqis. IS had announced its intention to execute him ever since his abduction.
Raef Badawi — A Saudi citizen-journalist and winner of the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Prize, Raef Badawi has been held since 2012 on a charge of “insulting Islam” for promoting liberal ideas on his website, the Liberal Saudi Network. Aged 30 and the father of three children, he was sentenced by a Riyadh court in September to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a heavy fine. In response to this inhuman sentence, which violates international law, RWB has launched a petition calling on King Abdullah to pardon him.
James Foley — On 19 August, Islamic State released a horrifying video of US hostage James Foley being beheaded. Foley, 40, was a reporter for the GlobalPost news website and Agence France-Presse. Posted online, the carefully staged video was designed to put pressure on the US government and included a threat to similarly execute Steven Sotloff, a US journalist held in Syria since the summer of 2013. A video of Sotloff being dispatched in the same way was released exactly two weeks later.
Khadija Ismaïlova — An investigative journalist who has covered high-level corrup- tion, Khadija Ismayilova has been detained since 5 December. She feared she might be arrested but nothing could convince this media freedom symbol to leave the country for which she has fought for years with rare courage and persistence. Her reporting and defence of human rights turned her into a priority target for the government. In 2012 and 2013 she was the victim of a smear campaign and blackmail attempts with a sex tape. The pressure intensified this year, when she was accused of spying, charged with defamation, arrested and prevented from travelling abroad. And now, finally, she is being held on the absurd charge of “pushing” a former colleague to attempt suicide, a charge that carries a possible sentence of three to seven years in jail.
Gao Yu — Well-known Chinese journalist Gao Yu, 70, is being tried on a charge of divulging state secrets to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. At her first hearing, on 21 November in Beijing, she pleaded not guilty, thereby retracting the forced confession that CCTV News broadcast in May. The first journalist to receive UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize in 1997, Gao has already spent seven years in prison. If found guilty, she could be facing a 15-year sentence.