Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published its annual worldwide list of journalists held hostage, imprisoned or missing. Every year, some 500 journalists are arrested, 1,000 assaulted or threatened, and more than 500 media outlets censored.
According to RSF’s tally, 54 professional journalists are being held hostage worldwide, a 35 percent increase from last year. It is no surprise that Syria is the country where non-state groups are holding the biggest number of journalists – 26. Islamic State alone is holding 18, mainly in Syria and Iraq.
“A full-blown hostage industry has developed in certain conflict zones,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We are very alarmed by the increase in the number of reporters held hostage in 2015. The phenomenon is above all linked to the big surge in abductions of journalists in Yemen, where 33 were kidnapped by Houthi militias and Al-Qaeda in 2015, against two in 2014. Thirteen are still being held hostage.”
The number of journalists imprisoned, 153, is 14 percent fewer than this time last year. A total of 161 citizen-journalists and 14 media workers also are detained. China continues to be the world’s biggest prison for journalists, closely followed by Egypt, with 22 journalists held.
Eight journalists were reported missing in 2015. These disappearances occur mainly in conflict zones, where instability makes it harder to conduct investigations to locate missing journalists, if indeed there is any investigation at all.
Libya, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain reliable information, is the country most affected by this problem. Four Libyan journalists and an Egyptian cameraman, all employed by privately-owned Barqa TV, were reported missing this year in Libya.