At least 34 journalists were killed around the globe in 2018. Though there’s no single explanation, Joel Simon believes the “disappointing response” of the US “helps explain why the perpetrators are acting with such impunity.” Simon asserts that the White House used to act when a journalist was harmed abroad, as the Bush White House did when Daniel Pearl was murdered by Al Qaeda. But Trump spends more time attacking journalists than he does defending their rights, Simon wrote.
- “Repressive leaders around the world are using Trump’s tactics” against journalists.
- Is it fair to hold Trump accountable for journalist deaths in other countries?
In February, gunmen burst into the home of an investigative reporter in Slovakia and fatally shot him in the chest. In April, ISIS suicide bombers targeted the press corps in Kabul, killing nine people in a single attack. In June, a disgruntled reader entered the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Maryland and gunned down four journalists and a sales assistant. And in October, Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and Saudi exile, was murdered and dismembered by government agents in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
All told, at least 34 journalists were killed in 2018, an increase of 89 percent compared to the previous year. The number of journalists in prison is also at record highs’”251 by the most recent count. Together, these statistics tell a damning story about the present era, the worst in recent history to be a reporter.
Journalists who take on powerful interests have always faced dangers. But even war reporters were once protected by the symbiotic relationship they had with those they covered. If guerrilla fighters or rogue governments wanted to communicate with the world, they had to talk to the press. Killing journalists, quite simply, undermined their ability to get their message out. That dynamic changed with the advent of the internet. By the mid-2000s, Mexican drug cartels had become savvy online users, as had terrorist networks like Al Qaeda. A decade later, the Islamic State developed an even more sophisticated communications operation, with sharp social media strategies, slickly produced YouTube videos, and even a glossy magazine, Dabiq, which published stories outlining the religious arguments for slavery and urging Muslims in the West to join the fight in the Levant. The group almost never interacted with journalists, except when they appeared as props in their elaborately staged execution videos. As governments have pushed ISIS back from its Syrian stronghold, the attacks the group once launched on journalists have become less frequent. Organized crime networks like the Mexican cartels and the European mafia are now the growing threat. And sometimes, as with Khashoggi, a state murders one of its own.