The targeted killings of journalists have remained on the rise across the globe as the media profession continues to become increasingly dangerous for individuals seeking to shed light on the criminal underbelly.
The alarming occurrence has more recently been underscored with the shooting of Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries, who was attacked earlier Tuesday when he was exiting the studio of Dutch broadcaster RTL in downtown Amsterdam.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that de Vries was targeted as a result of his past investigative work, considering the Dutch crime reporter previously revealed he received a bevy of threats from criminals, more recently by alleged Moroccan-Dutch criminal Ridouan Taghi.
Taghi, who is currently being held in a maximum-security prison in the Netherlands, is at the center of a murder case in which de Vries serves as counselor to state witness Nabil B. The hot-button case previously saw the witness’ past lawyer killed in public in September 2019.
As expected, the shooting has brought newfound light to the life-threatening hurdles that journalists and media professionals deal with while trying to sift and analyze investigative pieces.
— Sophie in 't Veld (@SophieintVeld) July 6, 2021
— Dacian Cioloş (@CiolosDacian) July 6, 2021
I'm sure I speak for my Irish colleagues in wishing journalist Peter R de Vries who was shot tonight by a gunman in Amsterdam the very best.The brave dutch crime reporter has been probing Holland's underworld for many years.— Padraig O'Reilly Photographer (@padraig_reilly) July 6, 2021
"Another courageous journalist targeted by organised crime," tweeted Afron Jones, former Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales Police, UK.
Following the attack on de Vries, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Dutch authorities to "swiftly and thoroughly investigate the shooting of crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, determine if he was targeted for his work, and ensure that those responsible face justice".
It was a targeted attack, not a public one. But Peter R. de Vries was shot multiple times and is severely wounded. He is a journalist who investigates organized crimes. Scary!— Rahul (@_rahulpp) July 6, 2021
Journalist Christoph Schwaiger remarked on Twitter earlier that de Vries’ shooting emphasizes that “Europe is still not a safe place for journalists,” especially following the murders of investigative journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Investigative journalist Caruana Galizia was killed after a bomb went off in her car. Her death was linked to an anti-corruption investigation she was conducting with the help of information uncovered in the leaked Panama Papers. The assassination caused a major backlash and led to a political crisis in the island nation resulting in the resignation of its then prime minister.
Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova were murdered in February 2018 in retaliation for investigating alleged links between senior Slovak politicians and organized crime syndicates.
The murder of Kuciak and Kusnirova shocked Slovakia, and led to the largest public demonstrations since 1989. Investigations into the connections of figures engaged in the shadow economy with major politicians and employees of the special services and police began in Slovakia after their murder.
The 2018 death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi also brought to the forefront the perils of the journalism industry, especially in cases in which reporters are using their platform to shed light on the corruption within powerful entities.
Thirty-five journalists around the world were killed in the first half of this year, the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) said on Tuesday. The same death toll was registered in the first half of the previous year, while the annual tally stood at 92.
The majority of the deceased journalists were targeted intentionally, with terrorist groups being behind almost a third of the casualties, the organization specified.
An annual report released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in mid-March found that some 65 reporters and media staffers were killed in 2020 as a result of “work-related incidents,” up from 17 cases the previous year.
The report cited organized crime groups, extremists and sectarian violence as the main reasons for the lingering lack of security for journalists, with Mexico listed as one of the worst countries for press freedom. The US’ southern neighbor reported the highest death toll of reporters in 2020: 14.
“The ruthless reign of crime barons in Mexico, the violence of extremists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, as well as the intolerance of hardliners in India and the Philippines have contributed to the continued bloodshed in the media,” IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said in a statement accompanying the report, which also listed the names of jailed or imprisoned journalists.
“No democracy worthy of that name can jail messengers of freedom of expression. Every day, the IFJ works actively on the ground for the immediate and unconditional release of colleagues who are unjustly imprisoned.”
Similarly, an annual report filed by media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders in late 2020 detailed the deaths of at least 50 journalists who were killed for their choice of profession. The cases involved many of whom were murdered at close range or died as a result of a planted bomb.
As recent as June 29, authorities in Haiti reported that an investigation had been launched to determine whether Haitian journalist Diego Charles was killed outside his home as a result of his work.