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On anniversary of Iraq war, journalist death toll examined

Iraqi journalists grieve on 22 May 2008 during a funeral for a television cameraman who was among 11 people killed in Baghdad by the US military
Iraqi journalists grieve on 22 May 2008 during a funeral for a television cameraman who was among 11 people killed in Baghdad by the US military

REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen

The following is a CPJ blog post:
By Frank Smyth/CPJ Senior Adviser for Journalist Security

The U.S.-led war in Iraq claimed the lives of a record number of journalists and challenged some commonly held perceptions about the risks of covering conflict. Far more journalists, for example, were murdered in targeted killings in Iraq than died in combat-related circumstances. Here, on the 10th anniversary of the start of the war, is a look inside the data collected by CPJ.

At least 150 journalists and 54 media support workers were killed in Iraq from the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to the declared end of the war in December 2011, according to CPJ research.

Fatalities in Iraq far surpass any other documented war-time death toll for the press. CPJ, founded in 1981, recorded the deaths of 58 journalists during the Algerian civil war from 1993 through 1996, another 54 fatalities in the undeclared civil conflict in Colombia, which began in 1986; and 36 deaths in the conflict in the Balkans from 1991 to 1995.

Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, has compiled lists of journalists killed in conflicts prior to 1981. The organization lists 89 journalists killed in the Central American conflicts from 1979 to 1989; a total of 98 killed in the Argentine conflict from 1976-1983; another 68 killed in World War II; and 66 killed in Vietnam from 1955 to 1975.

More recently, CPJ has documented the deaths of 35 journalists covering the Syrian civil war, a toll that includes a reporter who died across the border in Lebanon, and a journalist injured in Syria who later died in Turkey. The war in Afghanistan has taken the lives of 21 journalists from its beginning in 2001 until today.

In Syria, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, combat-related crossfire has accounted for a large proportion of deaths. But in Iraq, at least 92 journalists, or nearly two out of every three killed, did not die in airstrikes, checkpoint shootings, suicide bombings, sniper fire, or the detonation of improvised explosive devices. They were instead murdered in targeted assassinations in direct reprisal for their reporting. Many were targeted because of their affiliations with U.S. or Western news organizations, or their connections to news outlets seen as having sectarian connections.

Iraq's impunity rate--or the degree to which perpetrators have escaped prosecution for murdering the journalists--is the worst in the world. It is 100 percent. Even today, as Iraq has moved beyond conflict, authorities have shown no interest in investigating these murders.

Read the full story on CPJ's website.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • US has self to blame for Iraq failures

    After 10 years, Washington should have learned that it cannot improve a government's human rights conduct when it joins that government in demonstrating indifference to basic rights.

  • Iraq 10 Years Later, Creeping Authoritarianism

    The abuses US officials allegedly authorized in the early years of the war in Iraq, and their tacit or direct complicity in Iraqi abuses throughout the occupation, are all partly responsible for the entrenchment of weak and corrupt institutions in Iraq.

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