In a recent report, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières or RSF) revealed that journalist fatalities have been the lowest in 20 years, with a notable exception due to the Gaza conflict. According to RSF's annual report, the number of journalists killed in 2023 worldwide is 45, which is 16 less than the previous year. However, the war in Gaza has significantly contributed to these numbers, with at least 17 journalists killed in the conflict.
Yrsa Grüne-Luoma, Chair of RSF Finland, noted that without the devastating war in Gaza, the number of journalist fatalities this year would have been exceptionally low. "Journalists and media organizations have learned to operate more safely in dangerous conditions. The war in Gaza, however, has resulted in a grim spike in the numbers," said Grüne-Luoma.
The report highlights the increased safety in journalism globally, except in conflict zones like Gaza. Despite the overall reduction in journalist deaths, the situation in Gaza stands out as a tragic anomaly. RSF has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the high number of journalist deaths in such a small area, and whether these deaths were deliberate targets.
Grüne-Luoma also pointed out that media organizations have improved in training and equipping their staff for crisis areas, which has contributed to the overall decline in journalist fatalities. However, she emphasized the tragedy of Gaza, where the local situation has overshadowed the global trend of decreasing risks for journalists.
In addition to fatalities, the report addresses the issue of journalists being detained, held hostage, or missing. As of the start of 2024, 521 journalists are detained, nearly as many as last year’s record of 533. The majority of these are local journalists, with only 20 being international correspondents. The report lists China, Myanmar, Belarus, Vietnam, and Russia as countries with the highest risk of arbitrary detention for journalists.
The situation of women journalists is also highlighted, with Belarus imprisoning the highest proportion of female journalists. Overall, 68 female journalists are currently detained, a number only surpassed last year. Additionally, 84 journalists are reported missing, with the highest risk of being taken hostage in Syria.
The RSF report underscores the ongoing risks faced by journalists worldwide, particularly in conflict zones and authoritarian regimes. While there has been significant progress in overall safety for journalists, the profession remains perilous, especially in regions experiencing war and political instability.