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Most dangerous countries for journalists

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Chris Hondros // Getty Images

Most dangerous countries for journalists

Modern journalists have played a key role in society for several hundred years—aiming to inform the public about current events and their impact. While the purpose of the media is to serve the public and to encourage political participation in a democratic society, the field has long been painted in a negative light or even prosecuted, especially by oppressive governments. 

While the American media faces its own set of criticism, the U.S. is relatively lucky that it doesn’t face the regular attacks and murders levied at journalists in other parts of the world. In the last decade alone, 540 journalists around the world were murdered. Sixty-five have gone missing. In 2018, 250 journalists worldwide were imprisoned. The reasons for this were varied, ranging from censorship by the local government, backlash from political entities or militant groups, or even just other citizens being angered by what that particular journalist had reported.

Stacker compiled data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization that reports on the safety and status of journalists abroad, to create a list of the 17 most dangerous countries for journalists. The countries were ranked by the number of journalist deaths in the last 10 years, with supplemental information about journalists who have gone missing in that time period, as well as accounts of journalists who were in prison during 2018. Finally, murder cases that ended with impunity are also shown, and the figure displays the number of cases in which no convictions were obtained for the murder of a journalist (whether because the country’s law enforcement was not able to complete an investigation, or because the perpetrator was killed during the process).

Read on to learn which countries in the world are the most dangerous for journalists.

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CRISTINA VEGA // Getty Images

#15. Colombia (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 8
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 6
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups; local residents

The press in Colombia is partially free: They have freedom of information and freedom of expression, but journalists can be imprisoned for defamation, which remains illegal. Journalists regularly face death threats and lawsuits, and those committing crimes against journalists often get off without punishment. One example is the 2000 case of reporter Jineth Bedoya, who was kidnapped and raped; the case was continually delayed with no recourse for those complicit in the crime.

 

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SAID KHATIB // Getty Images

#15. Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 8
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 3
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 0
- Most common groups behind the killings: military officials

Though the government claims that there’s no intention to harm or silence journalists, the media—both local and international—regularly reports that the Israel Defense Forces deliberately target them. Just last month, Reporters Without Borders condemned Israel for wounding members of the press in Gaza and the West Bank, leading to one journalist losing an eye, and another photographer being accused of espionage.

 

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SERGEI SUPINSKY // Getty Images

#15. Ukraine (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 8
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 1
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 1
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 3
- Most common groups behind the killings: unclear

After the 2014 revolution, the Ukranian government enacted a number of reforms aimed at editorial transparency, access, and independence; it still keeps a firm hand on the media, though, in an attempt to control what is released. International journalists and media outlets, particularly those from Russia, are getting banned and blacklisted, and attacks on journalists in general are increasing. One investigative journalist has died so far this year, after sustaining head injuries in an attack motivated by his corruption reporting in Cherkasy.

 

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FARJANA K. GODHULY // Getty Images

#13. Bangladesh (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 9
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 1
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 9
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups

The media in Bangladesh has never been completely free; historically, it has answered to both the military and democratic governments. In 2018, the government introduced the Digital Security Act (DSA), which strengthens defamation rules and, journalists say, inspires a culture of intimidation and fear. Media employees are regularly harassed and arrested. One recent case occurred after the DSA went into effect: A photographer covering student protests was arrested for allegedly spreading anti-government misinformation and propaganda.

 

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ALAIN JOCARD // Getty Images

#13. France (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 9
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 8
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups

In 1881, France enacted freedom of the press—but with limits. Prosecutable offenses include racism, justification and incitement of terrorism, defamation, slander, and promotion of hatred. These apply to both local and foreign journalists. But the media in France reports it is feeling pressured to keep silent on a number of issues; for example, reporters at the media outlet Disclose were questioned by secret services for posting a video of two French tanks in Yemen that French officials said was revealing of state secrets.

 

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AFP // Getty Images

#12. Egypt

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 11
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 25
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 1
- Most common groups behind the killings: military officials

This year, Egypt was ranked as one of the countries putting the most journalists in jail—even as the current constitution says press is completely free. The reality is that the government regularly shuts down media outlets critical of the country’s leadership, blocks more than 500 websites (foreign and domestic) from its citizens’ browsers, and threatens public media with sanctions if they don’t avoid controversy. One editor-in-chief, Masr al-Arabia’s Adel Sabry, has been detained since April 2018 due to reporting on a New York Times piece that discussed vote-buying in Egypt; six reporters were arrested for that same issue.

 

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PATRICK BAZ // Getty Images

#10. Libya (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 13
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 4
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 3
- Most common groups behind the killings: military officials; political groups

The press in Libya is decidedly not free, with journalists regularly being the victims of crime or murders, or even going into exile to protect themselves from threats and attacks. Incidents of public censorship and verbal abuse against members of the media by the government and extremist groups are frequent and wide-spread. Muftah al-Qatrani, for example, was the director of a production company covering rival militia fighting for a few television networks; he was assassinated in his office in 2015.

 

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ROMEO GACAD // Getty Images

#10. Philippines (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 13
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 13
- Most common groups behind the killings: government officials

Journalists in the Philippines are, constitutionally, free to publish whatever they want. It’s the backlash that’s the problem: Filipinx journalists have been arrested, sued, and murdered for their work. President Rodrigo Duterte encourages online harassment of media, and even bans them from entering the presidential palace—especially those who are critical about the ongoing drug war. This year alone, three journalists were killed for covering the drug war by people believed to be working on behalf of the Duterte administration.

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KHALED FAZAA // Getty Images

#9. Yemen

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 20
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 1
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 2
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups

Journalists in Yemen have a great deal to fear, thanks to dangerous conditions that regularly lead to death for working members of the media, plus a lack of funding for fair and safe reporting. Militant political groups target almost all the media outlets, forcing them to close or relocate. In 2017 alone, more than 300 instances of attacks, abductions, and deaths were recorded against journalists in Yemen.

 

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AFP Contributor // Getty Images

#8. India

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 23
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 1
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 18
- Most common groups behind the killings: criminal groups

Both international and domestic journalists regularly face problems due to their line of work in India. Most of the corporate media outlets are owned by a handful of powerful families. Two reporters for the BBC, for example, were forced to flee from where they were working because of death threats as they attempted to report on unrest in Chhattisgarh. Journalists are regularly murdered, whether they’re working or not, by militant criminal groups.

 

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AFP Contributor // Getty Images

#7. Brazil

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 25
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 1
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 24
- Most common groups behind the killings: criminal groups

Censorship is a major player in the Brazilian media landscape. Politicians regularly use existing laws to silence the media, as do the courts, who often invoke judicial censorship to stop journalists from publishing stories about high-profile people. The election in 2018 was rife with aggression toward journalists, including frequent physical violence, with some instances even subsidized by the Jair Bolsonaro campaign.

 

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SHAH MARAI // Getty Images

#6. Afghanistan

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 28
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 11
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups

Since 2001, Afghanistan has been a shining example of free press in a repressive region of the world. But that is slowly changing, something made obvious when a suicide bomber killed 10 journalists on April 30, 2018. With that attack, years of intimidation, violence, and murder against journalists and their families came to a head, putting local and foreign journalists working in Afghanistan back on edge.

 

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HECTOR GUERRERO // Getty Images

#5. Mexico

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 29
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 8
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 27
- Most common groups behind the killings: criminal groups

Last year, Mexico was reported to be the most dangerous country not currently at war for journalists. Of the nine that were killed in 2018, all of them were reporting on government corruption, organized crime, and drug cartels. The government takes no action on keeping these journalists safe or punishing those who committed the murders. "In Mexico, we have essentially a 100 percent impunity rate. The state is not investigating itself," Ana Cristina Ruelas, regional director of Mexico and Central America for Article 19, a group documenting media freedom, told Deutsche Welle.

 

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JEWEL SAMAD // Getty Images

#3. Pakistan (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 35
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 1
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 18
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups

If you ask journalists in Pakistan, media censorship by the military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is the worst it’s ever been. Anything critical is getting shut down—including international outlets—which leads journalists to have to self-censor to avoid controversy. One journalist, who blames the ISI, faced an assassination attempt and now lives in exile; another was charged with treason for publishing an interview suggesting the military helped a terrorist group.

 

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ABDIFITAH HASHI NOR // Getty Images

#3. Somalia (tie)

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 35
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 0
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 1
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 28
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups

There’s an ongoing push for freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Somalia, but challenges continually impede that movement—including murders, harassment, beatings, and arbitrary arrests of journalists. Media outlets are regularly shut down by the government, which says they endanger national security by either spreading false news or aligning with an opposition party. Suicide bombings are a problem, too: In 2017, two journalists were killed in separate bombing incidents.

 

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AFP Contributor // Getty Images

#2. Iraq

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 45
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 7
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 0
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 23
- Most common groups behind the killings: political groups

In Iraq, media outlets are considered political tools, largely owned by political groups and censored by them as well; journalists can be arrested and imprisoned for anything perceived to be an insult to the country. The regulations are deliberately vague in order to allow maximum intimidation of journalists for dubious violations. At present, one journalist who worked for a media company supporting an outlawed group in Turkey is still missing after being arrested and questioned by Iraqi officials.

 

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LOUAI BESHARA // Getty Images

#1. Syria

- Number of journalist deaths between 2010-2019: 129
- Number of journalists gone missing between 2010-2019: 10
- Number of journalists in prison in 2018: 5
- Crimes in which impunity was displayed: 23
- Most common groups behind the killings: military officials

The continuing civil war in Syria makes being a journalist there incredibly dangerous, as officials from every armed group fights against journalists in the area (local and international) who don’t espouse the views and ideals of a given group. Members of the media are regularly kidnapped, interrogated, imprisoned, and murdered; one photographer was recently kidnapped outside his home and abused and interrogated for five weeks.

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