Iraq, Syria, Philippines Have Highest Rates of Impunity in Journalist Murders

Filipinos, foreign journalists and relatives of victims take part in a candle-lighting ceremony for journalists killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in Mandaluyong city, Metro Manila, November 23, 2014. Erik De Castro/Reuters

The Philippines, Iraq and Syria are among the countries where journalists are most likely to be murdered with impunity, according to a new study from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The 2016 Impunity Index from New York-based CPJ calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of the population of each country. This year's report found that Islamist militant groups are responsible for "some of the highest rates of impunity in the murders of journalists." For a second year in a row the worst country is Somalia, which has 24 unsolved cases and where the al-Shabaab militant group is "suspected in the majority of murders," the report says.

Iraq and Syria are the second- and third-worst countries, respectively; members of the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group have murdered six journalists in Mosul, Iraq alone in the past year, according to CPJ. In Nigeria, the extremist group Boko Haram is suspected of killing as many as five journalists in the past several years.

Iraq has the highest number of unsolved journalist murders, at 71, followed by the Philippines, with 41, and Mexico, with 21. Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh make up the rest of the list. Together, all 13 countries constitute 80 percent of unsolved murders of journalists in the past 10 years, said CPJ. Across all countries, targeted journalists include those who cover politics, corruption and human rights.

All killings in the report took place between September 1, 2006 and August 31, 2016. Only countries with more than five unsolved murders are included in the index. According to CPJ, "unsolved" means that there haven't been any convictions for the murder.

Earlier this year, the Philippines' new president, Rodrigo Duterte, made international headlines after he made comments that appeared to justify the killing of journalists. Speaking at a press conference in June, Duterte said: "Just because you're a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you're a son of a bitch." The Philippines was also the site the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, which CPJ calls "the deadliest event for the press" since the organization began keeping records in 1992.

Thursday's report says that "justice has come to a complete standstill" for the 32 journalists and media workers who were killed in Maguindanao province when they accompanied a local politician who was filing candidacy papers for an upcoming gubernatorial election. The candidate, Ismael Mangudadatu, would have challenged a member of the Amputuans, a powerful political family.

The CPJ report also includes Bangladesh, which has seen a recent spate of attacks and murders against secular bloggers and writers. In April, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, a gay rights activist and editor of Roopbaan, Bangladesh's only LGBT magazine. Like many other journalists in the country, Mannan was hacked to death by assailants.

CPJ publishes the Impunity Index annually to coincide with the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, held on November 2.