Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Thursday released their annual report summarizing violence and abuse against journalists. The organization reports that a total of 533 journalists are currently detained because of their work, 65 are held hostage and another 57 have been killed in the past year.
RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said of the report’s findings:
This new record in the number of detained journalists confirms the pressing and urgent need to resist these unscrupulous governments and to extend our active solidarity to all those who embody the ideal of journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism.
RSF has released a report every year since 1995 to detail to a reasonable degree of certainty violence and abuses committed against journalists internationally. The report considers anyone who “collects, processes and disseminates news, information and ideas in such a way as to preserve the general interest and the public’s fundamental rights” a journalist.
The report breaks violence and abuses into four separate categories: detained journalists, journalists killed, journalists held hostage and missing journalists. RSF first detailed how 533 journalists have been detained over the past year–a 13.4 percent increase from last year. That figure comprises of 432 professional journalists, 83 non-professional journalists and 18 media workers. Of that figure, however, only 36.4 percent have been convicted on formal charges. The other 63.6 percent have not been tried as of December 1.
The world’s five biggest detainers of journalists include (in order): China, Myanmar, Iran, Vietnam and Belarus. In total, 54 percent of the total 533 detained journalists worldwide are held in those five countries. Increasing censorship and hostile treatment of the free press in the above countries are contributing factors towards their status as the top five.
57 journalists were killed in 2022. This is an 18.8 percent increase from last year, which is an alarming rise after two years of historically low figures. RSF points to the war in Ukraine as the leading cause of this rise, as 35.1 percent of journalists killed were killed in war zones.
However, journalists were more likely to be killed in countries considered to be at peace. Mexico, for example, contributed 11 journalist murders to the figure in the midst of ongoing violence against members of the press. 78.9 percent of journalists killed were specifically targeted because of their work, including on topics spanning war, organized crime, corruption and political unrest.
Another 65 journalists are held hostage, with an overwhelming amount of that figure–93.8 percent–detained in their home countries. This is the same as the figure RSF presented last year. 64 of those held hostage are in just three Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Oliver Dubois is the exception, as he is currently held hostage in Mali. Dubois is also one of the only four foreign journalists still held hostage worldwide.
Two journalists were also reported missing in 2022. Dmytro Khiliuk, a Ukrainian journalist for UNIAN, disappeared on March 4 in Dymer, which was at the time a Russian-occupied territory. RSF reached out to Russian officials for information but received no response. Roberto Carlos Flores Mendoza, a webpage editor for Chiapas Denuncia Ya in Mexico, disappeared on September 20 and has not been seen since. The two new cases bring the total number of missing journalists over the past 20 years to 49.