A leading press advocacy group reported an alarming rise in the number of journalists killed and imprisoned around the world in 2012, attributing the trend to repressive laws, government intolerance of dissent and outright impunity for the killers that are endangering independent reporting in many countries.
In its annual "Attacks on the Press" survey, which was released on Thursday, the group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said 70 journalists had been killed while doing their jobs in 2012, which is a 43 percent increase over the year earlier, and that more than 35 journalists had disappeared. The group said that in 2012 it had identified 232 journalists who had been imprisoned, 53 more than a year earlier and the highest number since the survey began in 1990.
"It's a sad year for press freedom," Robert Mahoney, the group's deputy director, said at a news conference held at the United Nations. "From Mexico to Syria, Russia to Pakistan, journalists on the front lines are confronting violence and repression as never before."
Mr. Mahoney said the killing of journalists in Pakistan, Somalia and Brazil stood out last year, reflecting what he called an entrenched culture of impunity that gives the killers the confidence they will not be held accountable by the law. "There is no greater threat to investigative journalists than impunity," he said.
The appraisal also noted that 28 journalists were killed in Syria last year, making it the deadliest country for news reporting. Somalia was No. 2 with 12 journalists killed, followed by Pakistan with 7.
This year for the first time, the group compiled what it called a Risk List of countries where it had documented worrisome trends. Besides Pakistan, Somalia and Brazil, the group included Ecuador, Turkey and Russia for the use of restrictive laws to quiet dissent. Turkey, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran and Syria were cited for the imprisonment of journalists.
Mr. Mahoney also said that cyberattacks on journalists and news organizations had increased markedly over the past few years, describing the practice as inexpensive and easy censorship. Among the most common cyberattacks is a so-called denial-of-service attack, in which hackers overwhelm a news organization's operations by flooding it with information. He cited the examples of recent attacks on The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that were traced to China, but said many other lesser-known news organizations as well as individual journalists, in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, had been subjected to cyberattacks.
Mr. Mahoney said "the right to receive and impart information transcends borders, and international and regional bodies have a key role to play in upholding these principles, which are under attack."world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.