The number of journalists kidnapped while working in various corners of the globe more than doubled over the past year — with 87 occurring during 2013, compared to 38 in 2012 — according to an annual assessment released Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders.
The increase was led by abductions in the Middle East and North Africa, which together saw 71 journalists kidnapped, said the international nonprofit organization, which focuses on protecting media freedoms worldwide.
The biggest number of incidents occurred in Syria, where there were 49 and 17 journalist kidnappings, respectively. Sub-Saharan Africa was also a hot spot bearing witness to 11 kidnappings during 2013.
Despite the jump in kidnappings, Reporters Without Borders said the number of journalists killed around the world deceased slightly during 2013 but was still “very high,” with 71 cases occurring worldwide.
Nearly 40 percent of the killings occurred in war zones and the regions with the largest numbers of journalists killed in connection with their work were Asia, where 24 journalists were killed, and the Middle East and North Africa, which collectively saw 23 journalists killed.
Latin America witnessed a slight decrease in journalists killings, from 15 in 2012 to 12 in 2013.
Two journalists were killed and three others disappeared in Mexico, where “the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power and new government pressure on the media contributed to a sharp increase in self-censorship” among journalists, Reporters Without Borders said, adding that an “increase in self-censorship was probably also the reason for the fall in the number of journalists killed in other countries.”
The organization said that while the number of killings decreased, the “the overall level of violations affecting news providers continued to be very high” in 2013. It also noted that “at least 178 journalists are in prison right now,” with China, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Syria continuing to be world’s five leading jailers of journalists — as they were in 2012.
Reporters Without Borders also pointed to strain placed on journalists during unrest and clashes between authorities and protesters that occurred in various nations during the year as a cause for concern.
“Combating impunity must be a priority for the international community, given that we are just days away from the 7th anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists and that there have been new international resolutions on the protection of journalists,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement.
Journalists were systematically targeted by the security forces in Turkey, in connection with the Gezi Park protests, and to a lesser extent in Ukraine, Reporters Without Borders said in its release, adding that more than 100 cases of harassment and violence against journalists were registered during the “Brazilian spring” protests, most of them blamed on military police.
The organization also cited protests in Colombia and Mexico, political unrest in Egypt and sectarian unrest in Iraq as cause for concern.
“In Guinea, journalists where regularly threatened, by both government and opposition, during protests prior to the elections,” Reporters Without Borders said. “India, Bangladesh and Pakistan also saw an increase in threats and attacks against journalists, as well as murders.”