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How Many?: The methodology behind tallying the number of journalists killed


Introduction

The IFEX membership brings a broad range of experience to the task of compiling Journalists Killed lists. Certain members have been compiling this data for a decade or more, creating stronger links with local sources and the authorities, and are increasingly able to establish the motive for the murders with greater precision. Nevertheless, the compilation of these statistics is not an exact science; it is dependent on organisations' resources, reliability of sources and lack of information from certain regions due to repression, fear and self-censorship. Despite these limitations, members agree that the numbers are useful in lobbying efforts, helping to identify trends and highlight dangers in specific regions.

To find out more about what's behind the numbers, the IFEX Clearing House (IFEX CH) examined the methodology and criteria used by members of the IFEX network in compiling the number of journalists killed. All the members interviewed include their numerical data in year-end analytical reports that identify patterns and point to the responsibilities of the state. Many members also issue alerts throughout the year on individual cases, as soon as news of a journalist's death is received. These bring attention to the murders right after they happen, even if there is little information available as to motive, and are used to pressure for a prompt investigation. However, additional information obtained after the alert is issued may reveal that the motive for the attack was unrelated to the individual's profession.


Explaining the differences in the numbers #1: Who is and who is not included in the tallies

The differences in the final tallies are at least partly explained by the fact that each member handles media support workers differently. Moreover, a number of IFEX members have responded to the changing realities of the media profession by expanding their definition of media staff, or even creating a new category for media support workers.


Explaining the differences in the numbers #2: Considering the circumstances of the journalist's death


Explaining the differences in the numbers #3: Determining the motive for the killing

It is often difficult to establish a freedom of expression (FoE) link to a murder with any certainty. Authorities may fail to investigate the true motive while witnesses may be unreliable or silenced by fear. Many cases of murdered journalists are left unsolved, even years after the crimes are committed.

IFEX members interviewed said they continue to review the status of each case on an ongoing basis, resource permitting, with a particular push prior to the publication of their annual reports. Upon investigation, cases can be divided into three distinct categories:
A. Cases that can be ruled out as they do not have an FoE link (e.g. the individual was killed for personal reasons unrelated to their profession, by common criminals, etc.);
B. All those other cases that fall in the problematic middle: Cases where there may or may not be an FoE link but there is not enough information to categorically determine one way or another; and
C. Cases that appear to have an FoE link that can be established with a measure of certainty.

The differences in the tallies can largely be explained by how IFEX members address cases where the FoE link cannot be established with absolute certainty. Some groups do not include these cases on their lists until an FoE link has been clearly established, while others include them until the FoE link has been definitively ruled out.


Country-case studies

Mexico
Mexico has become the most dangerous country in the Americas for journalists. Several groups remarked on the gruesome murders characteristic of the region, often involving beheadings and mutilations. These tactics, combined with the authorities' inability to stop aggressors, may have a direct impact on the Journalists Killed data, as journalists increasingly resort to self-censorship and as a result many cases go unreported.

Locally based members commented on the large number of newspaper vendors and distributors who are targeted because of their papers' content. They also cautioned that each accidental death must be examined carefully as politically-motivated attacks are often disguised as incidents of common crime. A number of IFEX members noted that it is becoming increasingly difficult to unravel the facts and identify the motive in many cases, particularly in those involving drug cartels.

The Philippines
Most journalists and media workers killed in the line of duty are based in the provinces. Because of low salaries and the precariousness which typifies the exercise of journalism in these regions, reporters are more vulnerable to bribes and sometimes find themselves blurring the lines between journalism work and politics. When deciding whether or not to include a person on its Journalists Killed list, the local member examines whether an individual is primarily earning a living as a journalist and their reputation among the media community. In terms of discrepancies in IFEX members' tallies, they seem to stem from the definition of media practitioners and how each group deals with unconfirmed cases.

Russia
Many murders taking place outside of major urban areas go unreported and may never come to light. Moreover, a majority of crimes are not properly investigated. Neither of the national members includes certain categories of media workers in its list, such as fixers or drivers. Nonetheless, their total numbers tend to be higher than other IFEX members' because both groups include accidental deaths in their lists.


Background

In 2009, the IFEX CH was asked to conduct a research project examining the methodology and criteria used by members of the IFEX network in compiling the number of journalists killed. The final report attached here presents the conclusions of this process.

The IFEX CH is sometimes questioned about the difference in the numbers of journalists killed as reported by IFEX members at the end of the year. This report explains why these variations are a natural consequence of different member methodologies and missions.

While most of the attention about the Journalists Killed tallies is usually placed on the global statistics, the IFEX CH also chose to highlight country case studies on Mexico, the Philippines and Russia in recognition of the diversity of IFEX membership. Interviews were carried out with the following groups over a five-month period beginning in September 2010:

International:
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA )
  • Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International

    On Mexico:
  • ARTICLE 19's Mexico Office (working in conjunction with the Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social, CENCOS)
  • Former IFEX member Centro de Periodismo y Ética Pública (CEPET)
  • Inter American Press Association (IAPA)

    On the Philippines:
  • Center for Media Freedom in the Philippines (CMFR)

    On Russia:
  • Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) and Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF)
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