Journalist murders in Syria a shocking new trend: press freedom report

A man holds up a sign in memory of U.S. journalist James Foley during a protest against the Assad regime in Syria in Times Square in New York August 22, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (Reuters)

PARIS (Reuters) - The beheading of journalists by Islamist militants in Syria this year showed that reporters face a dangerous new threat, media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders said on Tuesday. While the overall number of journalists killed around the world was down 7 percent on 2013, to 66, the nature of some of the killings was of great concern, the Paris-based group said in an annual report. "The Reporters Without Borders round-up for 2014 highlights an evolution in the nature of violence against journalists and the way certain kinds, including carefully-staged threats and beheadings, are being used for very clear purposes," it said. "Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world." The deadliest country for journalists this year was Syria, where 15 were killed, followed by the Palestinian territories, especially Gaza, then eastern Ukraine, Iraq and Libya. China is the country where most journalists were jailed, followed by Eritrea, Iran, Egypt and Syria, the report found. The number of journalists kidnapped rose 37 percent this year to 119, of which 90 percent were local reporters, with most cases in the Middle East and North Africa. Some 40 journalists are still being held hostage worldwide. Due to "diverse forms of intimidation", the report said, twice as many journalists fled into exile this year as in 2013. (Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)