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In 2018, More Than 50 Journalists Were Killed Doing Their Job

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

From a mass shooting at a newsroom in Annapolis, Md., to a double suicide bombing in Afghanistan, it has been a deadly year for journalists. More than 50 journalists were killed around the world in 2018. Elana Beiser keeps track of news professionals who lose their lives for the Committee to Protect Journalists, and I was speaking with her about why many journalists were targeted this year.

ELANA BEISER: For a long time, you know, political and extremist groups needed journalists to get their message out, and now they don't. They can go straight to their audience or desired audience through social media, and journalists have become expendable.

GREENE: It's a terrible thing to think about, that journalists were actually slightly safer because they were seen as being used by extremist groups. And now they are at more danger because they're less needed. I mean, that's just terrible realities in both directions.

BEISER: That's correct.

GREENE: I spoke with Elana Beiser about the case of one journalist in Eastern Europe.

BEISER: Jan Kuciak was a 27-year-old investigative reporter in Slovakia. And in February, he was shot dead in his home alongside his fiancee. And it was a striking murder because Slovakia is a member of the European Union, and he was the second investigative journalist looking into corruption in the European Union to be murdered within less than six months following the car bombing that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October of 2017.

GREENE: And why do those stand out to you?

BEISER: Because they're in the European Union and because, so far, no one has been held to account - so that's a very disturbing situation.

GREENE: Overall, killings in war zones are actually down this year. What do you attribute that to?

BEISER: I think some of it is just fewer people doing the job of journalism in very dangerous places like Syria and Yemen. So at the height of the conflict in Syria - or early on in, I think, 2012, there was around 32 journalists killed covering that conflict. Nine were killed in 2013 following nine being killed in 2017. Obviously, nine is still too many. But it's a lower number, and we think that's just fewer people are there doing the work.

GREENE: I want to ask you about President Trump because he's called the media, at times, the enemy of the people. How do his broadsides against a free press play out globally?

BEISER: Well, they're certainly not helpful. There is a strong track record of successive administrations standing up for freedom of the press. But we do not see that coming out of this administration, and it's disturbing. You know, CPJ does a survey every year of journalists in jail. And we found 251 journalists in jail this year. And in the past three years - this is the third year that it's been over 250, which is quite a high number. And we do feel that is partly because places like the United States are not putting pressure on countries that are jailing a lot of journalists like Turkey, China and Egypt.

GREENE: I wonder, in the context of what you're talking about, what you made of the reaction from the Trump administration to Jamal Khashoggi's death.

BEISER: Well, the Trump administration's response has been fairly disappointing. Of course, we've seen various members of Congress take a strong stand. But Trump himself has said the crown prince of Saudi Arabia may or may not be responsible for ordering the death but it essentially doesn't matter to him. He still wants to continue the same relationship with Saudi Arabia. And from our perspective, that's basically just telling governments, you can kill journalists if you do enough business with the United States.

GREENE: Elana Beiser is the editorial director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. She's in our studios in New York City.

Thanks a lot.

BEISER: Thank you very much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.