These are dangerous times to be a journalist. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 15 journalists have been killed so far this year while 56 were murdered last year. Even more disturbing, the number of journalists killed in retaliation for their work, known as reprisal murders, nearly doubled in 2018. Reprisal murders were responsible for the deaths of four American journalists at the Capital Gazette in Maryland in June 2018 and the brutal attack almost a year ago of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi government agents in Istanbul.
Journalists have always been on the front lines in the battle over information. Their job is to uncover sensitive, sometimes secret information to hold people in power accountable. Authoritarian governments who want to keep that information from the public will try to intimidate, imprison, or even murder the journalists who bring these abuses to light.
Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, says the current environment is the worst in recent history and calls out President Donald Trump for spending more time attacking journalists than defending their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Simon says repressive leaders around the world are taking note and embracing Trump’s tactics. “A new generation of populist leaders now define themselves in opposition to the media. They attack their own journalists and are largely indifferent to the fate of reporters in the rest of the world,” said Simon in an essay in The New Republic.
There’s also a Journalists In Distress network that provides emergency assistance to journalists anywhere in the world who are injured, imprisoned, or forced to flee because of their work. But the truth is, no amount of preparation or precautions will eliminate all the risks associated with being a journalist today.