Cries for justice over the apparent murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, have swept across the world in the last month. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly urged Riyadh to disclose who ordered the killing, and Turkish prosecutors have prepared an extradition request for the 18 suspects identified so far, believing that justice would be better served outside the Saudi kingdom.
While international eyes have fixed on the Khashoggi murder, his case is but one of dozens in recent years in which journalists have been killed with impunity, and in which governments and other powerful figures have turned a blind eye or, worse, actively obstructed justice.
Nine out of 10 murders of reporters, photographers and their counterparts go unpunished, according to The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. “Attacks on journalists worldwide are becoming more common, undermining the media’s role and creating opportunities for government overreach, the erosion of press freedom, and impeding our right to be informed,” said Association CEO Vincent Peyrègne.
At least 45 journalists have been killed this year alone as a result of their work, along with 17 others killed without a confirmed motive, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists. That outpaces last year’s death count in the same month. Reporters Without Borders’ death tally is higher still, showing more journalists killed in connection to their work in the first nine months of 2018 than in all of 2017. The group had confirmed 56 killings connected to the job as of Oct. 1, with 10 more under investigation.
UNESCO, with the support of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, of which The Globe and Mail is a member, has declared Nov. 2 the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. To coincide with this day, Globe and Mail reporters have revisited the stories of several slain journalists whose killers have yet to be brought to justice.
Overview: 2018′s deadly toll
Afghanistan, April 30, 2018
When a suicide bomb rattled Afghanistan’s capital city on April 30, scores of journalists converged to document yet another instance of bloodshed in Kabul. Unbeknownst to them all, another bomber, who police say was masquerading as a member of the press, had mixed into the crowd.
A second explosion then pierced the morning air. Nine journalists were killed, in what Reporters Without Borders called the deadliest attack on journalists since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001.
Shah Marai, Agence France-Presse’s chief photographer in Kabul, was among the dead. He left behind six children, including a newborn daughter. AFP remembered him as a man who often laughed at his own jokes before reaching the punchline; he was one of the “old hands,” bureau chief Allison Jackson wrote, risking his life to photograph during the Taliban regime. In life, he photographed the aftershocks of suicide bombings, including a 2016 blast that killed journalists from the local TOLO TV station.
TOLO lost another journalist on April 30, a longtime cameraman named Yar Mohammad Tokhi. Mr. Tokhi had been his family’s sole breadwinner, the TV station reported that day, and spent much of his monthly salary on medication and doctors' bills for his ailing mother and a sister battling cancer. He’d recently sold his bicycle to pay for treatment. In less than a month, he was supposed to be married.
There were more. 1TV lost journalists Ghazi Rasooli and Nowroz Ali Rajabi; Mashal TV, Saleem Talash and Ali Saleemi. Radio Free Europe mourned Abadullah Hananzai, Sabawoon Kakar and Maharram Durrani. Six other members of the press were among the wounded.
The Islamic State group claimed the Kabul blasts in a statement posted online, which identified their target as the Afghan intelligence headquarters. But since the bombers were killed in their own detonations, no one was brought to justice, said Hashem Mohmand, Radio Free Europe’s Afghan Service Director.
–Victoria Gibson, Toronto
Mexico, March 23, 2017
Investigative reporter Miroslava Breach Velducea specialized in unraveling the ways that organized crime infiltrated state government structures in her native Chihuahua. On the morning of March 23, 2017, she was driving her 14-year-old son to school when she was shot eight times and died at an intersection near their home. At the time, she was investigating connections between the Sinaloa drug cartel and officials in the governing National Action Party (PAN).
Ms. Breach Velducea had already earned enemies because of her reporting on drug trafficking, vast embezzlement schemes by the state governor and other officials, illegal logging and the string of grisly murders of women in the city of Juarez, among other topics. Her family said she had been receiving threats for years but had rarely reported them to authorities because she did not feel she could trust them. She had cropped red hair and a ready grin, and was raising three children on her own while embarking on complex and risky reporting projects.
Ms. Breach Velducea, who was 54 when she was killed, worked for the newspapers La Jornada and Norte de Ciudad Juárez, No one has been arrested or charged in connection with her murder.
Chihuahua police said in April they had identified the perpetrators of the killing, but have made no arrests; Ms. Breach Velducea’s family says they cannot get answers about the progress of the investigation.
Eight Mexican journalists have been killed so far this year, in what is quickly becoming one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a reporter.
–Stephanie Nolen, Mexico City
Brazil, Jan. 17, 2018
Jefferson Pureza Lopes called his daily radio show “Voz de Povo,” Voice of the People. The gregarious, burly reporter used the platform to scrutinize local officials in his town of Edealina in the state of Goias in central Brazil, politicians who ran the gamut from inept to blatantly corrupt. He was 39 when he was shot and killed on the night of January 17, 2018, while watching TV in his sitting room, the front door propped half-open in the midsummer heat. The shots were fired by two men on motorcycles, police say; there have been no arrests or charges in connection with his murder.
Mr. Lopes knew his frank coverage of political malfeasance had earned him enemies. “For two years [he had] been getting threats, daily threats, via WhatsApp – messages saying, ‘I’m going to end your family,’ that kind of thing,” Marlon Queiroz, Mr. Lopes' co-host, told Brazilian TV channel Globo following the shooting. Mr. Lopes’s house was shot at in 2016, and he was threatened with a gun to the head by the husband of a politician he had criticized on air, his colleagues said. Station manager Cristina Leandro told the Committee to Protect Journalists that Mr. Lopes had reported the incidents to police and pressed charges against the man who threatened him but the cases stalled in Brazil’s notoriously ineffective judicial system.
He was the first journalist to die in Brazil this year, but the country is increasingly dangerous for reporters. Historically the less-developed north has been the riskiest region, where reporters who cover deforestation, agri-industry and mining have been targeted by wealthy and powerful politicians and businesspeople – often the two groups are one in the same – in an effort to stifle their reporting. Others, like Mr. Lopes, become targets because of their perceived affiliation with a political group; he worked for Beira Rio FM, an Edealina-based station that is owned by a political rival to Edealina’s current mayor.
Prospects for journalists’ safety in Brazil are not improving: the president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly threatened to “finish” media organizations that have reported on allegations of financial impropriety in his campaign, and reporters came under an unprecedented number of attacks while covering the country’s recent election.
– Stephanie Nolen, Mexico City
Central African Republic, July 30, 2018
The three Russian journalists were investigating a dangerous story in one of Africa’s most dangerous countries. They had landed in the Central African Republic to pursue the shadowy activities of the Wagner Group – a private Russian paramilitary company with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
On July 30, barely two days after they arrived in the country, their dead bodies were found near their bullet-riddled car. The three journalists – Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal – had been ambushed by unidentified attackers as they drove into the northern region of the country.
Three months later, nobody has been arrested or charged in connection with the murders. A researcher for the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent global organization based in New York, says there has been no indication of any progress by local police investigators.
Just a day before they were killed, the three journalists had tried to enter a large military base where the Wagner Group was based, according to media reports. But they were turned away.
The journalists were employed by a media group financed by the exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a leading critic of the Kremlin. He has said he is convinced that the killers were Russian.
In recent years, Russia has sharply increased its involvement in the Central African Republic. It has sent hundreds of mercenaries, including Wagner Group contractors, into CAR to serve as government advisers and military trainers. It has also shipped weapons to CAR, and it has invested in potentially lucrative mining projects in the country.
Russian authorities have announced their own criminal investigation into the murders. But according to the latest annual report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, released this week, Russia is one of the countries where impunity is most entrenched for the killers of journalists. Over the past decade, eight killings of journalists in Russia are still unsolved – one of the worst records in the world.
–Geoffrey York, Johannesburg
Malta, Oct. 15, 2017
The last blog post by Daphne Caruana Galizia ended with these two sentences: “There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate.”
On Oct. 15, 2017, the day after she published the post, she was killed when a car bomb blew up her Peugeot near her village in Malta. The assassination of the tiny island state’s best known investigative journalist, who was 53 and had three sons, shocked Europe and made her final written words chilling and ominous. What she wrote was enough to get her murdered.
If her killers, and the powers behind them, thought Ms. Caruana Galizia would be forgotten, because she was not backed by a prominent media outlet in a prominent country, they were wrong. On Thursday [Nov. 1], she will become the first posthumous recipient of the Martin Adler Prize, which honours freelancers who made a significant contribution to news gathering but who go largely unrecognized in the international media.
The award will be accepted by her eldest son, Matthew, a journalist who shared a Pulitzer Prize with his colleagues for his work on the Panama Papers, a scandal that had also obsessed his mother. He will no doubt use the honour to highlight the murder investigation’s lack of progress. While three men, each with a criminal record, were arrested in Malta last December on suspicion of having detonated the car bomb, the Caruana Galizia sons and some members of the European Parliament suspect the alleged killers were merely contract thugs. They want to know who did the hiring.
Ms. Caruana Galizia certainly had a lot of enemies; her hit list included many prominent figures among the Maltese elite. Her relentless digging earned her death threats, arrests, attacks on her property and endless libel suits. She was a local hero before her assassination, an international one after it, lauded for bravery so fierce it made her a target.
–Eric Reguly, Rome