PARIS, Dec 18 (KUNA) -- Attacks on journalists, citizen journalists and media workers increased by eight percent in 2018 when compared with the figures registered in 2017, press freedom body Reporters Without Borders (RWB) said on Tuesday.
In its annual round-up of abuses against the press, RWB indicated that 80 workers in the media sector had been killed so far this year and "journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018."
The press organisation also noted that professional journalists paid a high price for doing their jobs this year, with 63 reported killed, up 15 percent from the 55 fatalities in 2017.
"More than half of the journalists killed in 2018 were deliberately targeted," RWB lamented.
"Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical," RWB Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in the report.
Deloire remarked that the hate speech against journalists often heard from leaders in society "has tragic consequences on the ground and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violence against journalists."
The RWB chief also blamed social networks which he said "bear heavy responsibility" in circulating expressions of hatred and violence against the press, and therefore against democracy.
RWB said Afghanistan was the world's deadliest country for journalists in 2018, with 15 fatalities. Syria followed closely behind, with 11 journalists killed, while Mexico, the deadliest country outside a conflict zone, reported nine journalists murdered in 2018. Also, the fatal shooting of five employees of the "Capital Gazette" newspaper in June brought the United States into the ranks of the deadliest countries.
Beyond direct killings, the number of journalists detained in prison has also risen in 2018 to reach 348 compared with 326 the previous year. China, Turkey and Iran stood out as the top three countries for detaining press professionals.
At the same time, 60 journalists are being held hostage by various groups, up eleven percent from 54 kidnapped in 2017.
According to the RWB report, all but one of those kidnapped are being held in three Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. They include six foreign journalists. (end)