Killings of Journalists Worldwide: The Full Costs of a Free Press

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Why does it matter to know more about the numbers of killed journalists?

Until recently, professionals, the media and civil society but also the international community and states have approached journalism under an image of a clear set of expectations as to how society and the political system ought to respect the act of holding power to account, and also as to the conditions under which journalists work. Until now, it has been generally accepted that some risks are inherently associated with doing a highly sensitive profession, one that seeks to stand between power and society. These risks are associated with the coverage of armed conflict as a matter of "collateral damage" and unintended effects. Our assumptions have been based on the understanding that the extermination of human beings and the silencing of voices in this utmost drastic manner, a killing, were the exceptions rather than the rule, in the quest of society to achieve more equality, justice, democracy and prosperity for the many.


2294 journalists were killed in the period 2000-2016 worldwide. The study found that the number of killed journalists, even when accounting for definitional conflicts, far exceeds the most cited numbers currently in public debate. 

Despite international efforts to monitor and record the circumstances of death, there are significant gaps in information for which the international community has not yet compensated. Certainly, the role of national governments and the State are here paramount in actively protecting journalists, ending impunity, and providing transparency in terms of information surrounding the killings.

There are significant gaps in the information the international community holds with regards the media for which journalists have worked, the stories they have covered and their employment status. Although there is some evidence about the trends of killings of journalists, there is little information about the conditions under which they moved into assignments.

For 33 journalists we have no information on gender; 161 of all journalists were women. For 20 per cent of the cases no information could be found about journalists' citizenship and relation to location of reporting and death. 72 per cent or 1647 were local journalists and eight per cent correspondents i.e. died abroad. We have no information about the job position for three per cent of cases and no information about the type of media journalists worked for, for almost a quarter of the cases.

Information about these demographic categories can reveal evidence for changing trends or continuities, as to whether for example the presence of major global television broadcaster might inadvertently provide more safety or whether there are cases where in terrorist assaults, in particular, this might contribute to making journalists even more vulnerable if publicity is sought after by such groups. Information also can reveal gender differences, if any, as well as the role of geopolitical conditions determining at least employment protection. 

Recorded suicides constitute below one per cent of all cases. Information on suicides is consistently missing, is incomplete or uncertain particularly as to whether the recorded number corresponds to the reality of journalism. It is estimated that suicides, due to their social stigma, as well as methodological uncertainties as to whether they are to be attributed to practicing journalism, are severely under-reported. 

The role of the press itself and the international community in bringing to the light the dangers and violations against human rights is crucial. 


In the following interactive map the number of journalists killed per country are showed.

Also the peaks of killings, the running total, top 20 countries of killed journalsts.

In the second map all journalists killed are marked with a box - by clicking it the name, age, citizenship, country of death, Media Employer, position, sex, topic covered, type of death are visable. Please find a further description of these categories in the report.