When a bomb detonates in Kabul, Afghanistan, the media descends. Horrific images are broadcast by video journalists, heaving their cameras and massive bags of kit. On April 30th a blast occurred in a district near the United States Embassy. Yet it was followed by a second explosion at the very same spot just 40 minutes later, by a suicide bomber disguised as a television cameraman. The media itself was the target. Ten journalists were among the 31 people killed.
The attacks bring to 26 the number of journalists killed so far in 2018. The rate has generally been declining since a peak in 2009, when 75 were slain, due to murder, crossfire or on dangerous assignments, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit.
The Iraq War claimed the lives of the most journalists in 2006 and 2007, before a larger share of the country was secured by Western forces. By 2008 security was better, and around five reporters died each year. Yet the conflict in Syria resulted in as many as 31 journalists killed in a single year, 2012. So far in 2018, four journalists have died in Syria; none in Iraq.
Though Russia, Mexico and the Philippines have a well-deserved reputation as a dangerous place to commit the act of journalism, the number of reporters who have been killed there has generally remained low, around two a year in all three countries. A notable exception to this was in the Philippines in 2008, when a startling 33 journalists were killed during the Maguindanao massacre. At the time, one senior government official was forced to say that he was “just joking” when he demanded that his bodyguard to assassinate a reporter.
Although the number of journalists who are killed for reporting the news has been largely declining globally, what is slain in every instance is the public’s access to information. A murdered journalist is violence against one, but a crime against everyone.