THE WORLD in 2014 has been most bloody and most cruel to both journalists and citizen-journalisis.

In all, according to Reporters Without Borders (RWB or Reporters Sans Frontieres), the numbers are most grave:

* Killed: 66 journalists, 19 citizen-journalists, and 11 media workers
* Kidnapped: 119 journalists and 8 citizen-journalists
* Imprisoned: 178 journalists and 178 citizen-journalists
* Arrested: 853 journalists and 122 citizen-journalists
* Threatened and attacked: 1,856 journalists.

RWB, in its latest “Round-up of Abuses Against Journalists” noted a slight fall in the number of journalists killed in connection with their work, but also “an evolution in the nature of violence against journalists and the way certain kinds, including carefully-staged threats and beheadings, are being used for very clear purposes.”

According to RWB, “the murders are becoming more and more barbaric and the number of abductions is growing rapidly, with those carrying them out seeking to prevent independent news coverage and deter scrutiny by the outside world.”

RWB said “the beheadings of US and Iraqi journalists in 2014 testified to the scale of the violence that can be used against unwanted witnesses. Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world.”

The 66 professional journalists killed in connection with their work in 2014 was 7 percent fewer than in 2013.

About 93 percent of those killed were salaried journalists, and 7 percent freelancers. Ninety percent of those killed were foreign journalists, and 10 percent, local journalists.

However, RWB said two-thirds of the casualties in 2014 were killed in war zones, including Syria (which continues to the world’s deadliest country for journalists), the Palestinian Territories (especially Gaza), eastern Ukraine, Iraq and Libya.

The number of journalists kidnapped in 2014, or 119, marked a 30 percent increase from the 2013 figure of 87.

Of those abducted in 2014, RWB said 90 percent are local journalists. To this day, at least 40 journalists and three citizen-journalists are still being held hostage across the world. Of the 22 journalists currently being held by armed groups in Syria, 16 are Syrians. All of the eight journalists currently held hostage in Iraq are Iraqis.

Most of the kidnapping cases were in the Middle East and North Africa, with 29 in Libya, 27 in Syria and 20 in Iraq. The chief causes were Islamic State’s offensive in Iraq and Syria, and the turmoil in Libya, where the clashes between rival militias have not let up.

Many journalists have also been kidnapped in Ukraine, mainly in the east of the country, where the conflict continued despite the ceasefire announced there in September.

Of the 853 journalists arrested in 2014, RWB said at least 47 were working in Ukraine, 46 in Egypt, 45 in Iran, 45 in Nepal, 34 in Venezuela, and 636 in the rest of the world.

Of the 178 professional journalists in prison as of Dec. 8, 2014, at least 29 are working in China, 28 in Eritrea, 19 in Iran, 16 in Egypt, 13 in Syria, and 73 in the rest of the world. Exactly the same number or 178 citizen-journalists were recorded by RWB to be in prison worldwide as of the same date.

In the face of “such diverse forms of intimidation,” RWF said, “twice as many Journalists had fled into exile this year as in 2013.” A total of 139 professional journalists and 20 citizen-journalists contacted RWB and said they had to flee abroad in 2014 for fear of their safety. Of the total, 43 came from Libya, 37 from Syria, and 31 from Ethiopia.

RWB said two developments deserve highlighting:

* Fewer journalists were killed in countries “at peace,” notably in Mexico, India and Philippines; and

* The number of women journalists killed doubled, from three last year to six this year.

The women journalists were killed in Central African Republic, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Philippines. A woman citizen-journalist was also killed in Mexico after being kidnapped by gunmen.

By country, the most deadly places for journalists in 2014, according to RWB, are: Syria, where 15 journalists were killed in 2014; Palestine, 7; Ukraine, 6; Iraq, 4; and Libya, 4. In the rest of the world, 30 other journalists had been killed.

RWB said the top five countries where the largest numbers of journalists had been arrested and jailed in 2014 are: China, 29; Eritrea, 28; Iran, 19; Egypt, 16; and Syria, 13. In the rest of the world, 73 other journalists had been imprisoned.

The top five countries where the largest numbers of journalists had been kidnapped in 2014 are: Ukraine, 33; Libya, 29; Syria, 27; Iraq, 20; and Mexico, 3. In the rest of the world, 4 other journalists had been kidnapped.

Five cases marked the degree of terror that journalists confronted in 2014, according to RWB. These are the cases of:

* Raad Azaoui: An Iraqi cameraman working for Sama Salah Aldeen TV, Raad Mohamed Al-Azaoui was publicly executed on 10 October for refusing to cooperate with Islamic State, which tolerates only dead or compliant journalists. Aged 36 and a father, he was executed together with his brother and two other civilians in the IS-controlled Iraqi city of Samara a month after being captured along with around 20 other Iraqis. IS had announced its intention to execute him ever since his abduction.

* Gao Yu. Well-known Chinese journalist Gao Yu, 70, is being tried on a charge of divulging state secrets to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. At her first hearing, on 21 November in Beijing, she pleaded not guilty, thereby retracting the forced confession that CCTV News broadcast in May. The first journalist to receive UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize in 1997, Gao has already spent seven years in prison. If found guilty, she could be facing a 15-year sentence.

* Khadija Isma├»lova. An investigative journalist who has covered high-level corruption, Khadija Ismayilova has been detained since 5 December. She feared she might be arrested but nothing could convince this media freedom symbol to leave the country for which she has fought for years with rare courage and persistence. Her reporting and defence of human rights turned her into a priority target for the government. In 2012 and 2013 she was the victim of a smear campaign and blackmail attempts with a sex tape. The pressure intensified this year, when she was accused of spying, charged with defamation, arrested and prevented from travelling abroad. And now, finally, she is being held on the absurd charge of “pushing” a former colleague to attempt suicide, a charge that carries a possible sentence of three to seven years in jail.

* James Foley: On 19 August, Islamic State released a horrifying video of US hostage James Foley being beheaded. Foley, 40, was a reporter for the Global Post news website and Agence France-Presse. Posted online, the carefully staged video was designed to put pressure on the US government and included a threat to similarly execute Steven Sotloff, a US journalist held in Syria since the summer of 2013. A video of Sotloff being dispatched in the same way was released exactly two weeks later.

* Raef Badawi: A Saudi citizen-journalist and winner of the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Prize, Raef Badawi has been held since 2012 on a charge of “insulting Islam” for promoting liberal ideas on his website, the Liberal Saudi Network. Aged 30 and the father of three children, he was sentenced by a Riyadh court in September to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a heavy fine. In response to this inhuman sentence, which violates international law, RWB has launched a petition calling on King Abdullah to pardon him.

Since 1995, RWB has been publishing its annual round-up of violence and abuses against journalists that RWF “based on precise data that RWB gathers in the course of its monitoring.” It includes figures for both professional and citizen-journalists killed in connection with their reporting. RWB continues to investigate cases when it has not yet gathered enough information to reach a clear determination.

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