2012 was the deadliest year for journalists in the field since monitoring began 17 years ago, according to an annual report released Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders.
88 journalists lost their lives while reporting in the middle of wars and bombings, or were killed on orders by corrupt governments, organized crime tied to drug trafficking and by Islamist militias, the report said.
“The reason for the unprecedented number of journalists killed in 2012 is mainly the war in Syria, the chaos in Somalia and Taliban violence in Pakistan,” said Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of the nonprofit group. “The impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violations of human rights, in particular, the right to freedom of information, encourages the continuation of these violations.”
In places like Syria, where fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have battled opposition forces for the past 21 months, professional journalists have faced difficulty and persecution while attempting to report. Amateur reporters, using mobile phone cameras and twitter feeds, have stepped in to tell the story of life in the conflict zones.
According to the report, 47 so-called citizen journalists were killed in 2012, compared with five in 2011. In Syria alone, at least 17 journalists, 44 citizen journalists and four media assistants lost their lives, the report said.
This is a 33 percent rise in journalist deaths since just last year.
Imprisonment of journalists has reached a record high, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported this week. According to a special report released Tuesday, CPJ had identified 232 individuals behind bars worldwide as of Dec. 1 – an increase of 53 compared to data from 2011.
Turkey, Iran and China lead the world with the highest number of imprisonments, all of which are based on vague anti-state laws used to silence journalists reporting dissenting political views and those of ethnic minorities.
“We are living in an age when anti-state charges and ‘terrorist’ labels have become the preferred means that governments use to intimidate, detain, and imprison journalists,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon in a press statement. “Criminalizing probing coverage of inconvenient topics violates not only international law, but impedes the right of people around the world to gather, disseminate, and receive independent information.”
There are currently at least 132 journalists worldwide being held on anti-state charges including terrorism, treason and subversion. Turkey, the world’s worst jailer, is particularly well-known for its broad-sweeping anti-terror legislation that punishes journalists for reporting or publishing any information that may be interpreted as propagation of terrorist groups.
Eritrea and Syria make the top-five list, both known for holding journalists under harsh conditions in secret prisons, often times without charges or due process. Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia round out the top 10 list for the most journalists behind bars.
63 journalists across the world are being held in prisons without any publicly disclosed charge. An additional 67 journalists were also reported killed in 2012. The report did not mention arrests of journalists in the United States or other countries where journalists have been arrested and subsequently released in 2012.
More journalists were jailed in 2012 than any other year on record since C.P.J. began conducting worldwide surveys in 1990. The previous record was documented in 1996 with one hundred eighty-five journalists behind bars.
Next generation’s Walter Cronkites won’t be learning the traditional tricks and tips used by the journalists of today. Drones could be the next big tool for newsgathering, and some journalism students are getting hands-on experience already.
Drones aren’t likely to be approved for commercial use for a few more years, but in the meantime hobbyists are free to purchase and assemble small unmanned aerial vehicles that can hoover close to the earth and offer literally a bird’s eye view of the ground. One police department in Colorado has already logged close to 200 hours with their search-and-rescue drones, and the Department of Homeland Security has its own personal fleet for border patrol. But as America enters the dawn of the drone age, will law enforcement agencies be the only ones benefiting from unmanned aerial vehicles?
“In 2015, when the FAA is set to begin to relax its prohibition on use and integrate civilian use of drones, then I would think the first folks in the door would be media because there’s such an obvious use,” Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, testified during a Senate hearing earlier this week. Congress is currently trying to put together guidelines for a domestic drone program that will be ready for the big UAV boom expected in just a matter of months, but commercial services and police department won’t be the only ones that will benefit. As Calo explained to Congress, using a drone to gather news is an option not often considered.
- The Google Glass, a unit capable of recording content and uploading it online immediately. Photo courtesy of http://canadianawareness.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/google-glasses.jpeg
In a world of rapidly-changing technology, the future of journalism is intriguing. Privacy laws, some of the most contentious issues in journalism today, will be even more important as modern technology evolves.
While the industry’s founding principles of information dissemination have stayed steady, the this information reaches the public has changed enormously in the last two decades. News itself has undergone a major shift— anyone with internet access can be a writer or publisher. In a sense, all people who put themselves in a public role are becoming their own media organizations.
The invention of new technologies such as Google Glass, wearable glasses with internet access and recording capability, will bring privacy issues front and centre. The device, slated to launch this year, has sparked public concerns regarding its ability for users to surreptitiously film their surroundings and post it immediately to the internet. People may not realize they are being filmed.
In a constantly changing technological landscape, the fuzzy of privacy laws in journalism remains uncertain. One thing is sure, that the journalist must, as Charlie Beckett from the London School of Economics states “prepare for permanent impermanence”.
The numbers are surprising. Canadian journalism salaries are bucking the nation’s salary trends, with the industry’s top earners coming out of eastern cities like Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal.
Canadian salaries are higher in nearly all industries in boom provinces like Alberta. Yet the eastern Canadian journalists are making significantly more on average than their western counterparts. The lowest ten percent of Canadian journalists in Calgary earn a paltry $12.85 per hour compared to the lowest ten percent of Montreal journalists, who rake in $17.00 per hour on average.
This trend could be explained by the fact the largest employment sectors for journalists are the information and cultural industries. Older and more well-established cities like Toronto and Montreal are famous for their rich arts and cultural scenes. Smaller and newer western cities, such as Calgary, have yet to establish themselves as cultural destinations.
According to the latest figures, a standard full-time salary for journalists in Canada floats between $40,000-$50,000 a year, or $20-$30 hourly on average. The top earners in Toronto and Montreal, however, enjoy salaries of $67-$70,000 per annum.
While journalism careers themselves can vary greatly, this most recent study has shown the wide variety of demand across the industry. Popular job titles in Canada are journalist, reporter, correspondent, columnist, and newspaper critic.