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PARIS: The number of journalists killed in the line of duty fell this year, despite reporter deaths in Gaza in the past two months, media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said Thursday.

In the first 11 months of 2023, 45 journalists were killed carrying out their work, down from 61 last year, according to the annual report by RSF.

It was the smallest number since 33 died in 2002, largely due to a major drop in Latin America.

While some 63 journalists have been killed in the Middle East since the October 7 start of fighting between Israel and Hamas, only 17 of those deaths fell under RSF’s definition.

“It takes nothing away from the tragedy in Gaza but we are observing a regular decline, and are very far from the 140 journalists killed in 2012 and again in 2013” because of the wars in Syria and Iraq, RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire told AFP.

The decline is due to efforts by inter-governmental organisations and NGOs to combat impunity, as well as to greater “prudence” by reporters themselves, he said.

Of the 17 journalists RSF counted as killed carrying out their profession in the Middle East since October 7, 13 were killed by Israeli fire in Gaza, three died in Lebanon and one was killed in Israel by Hamas.

RSF in November said it filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court for “war crimes” for these deaths.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers say 3 journalists killed in Israeli raids

AFP last week said its investigation showed that Israeli tank fire was responsible for killing Reuters cameraman Issam Abdallah on October 13 and wounding six others, including AFP photographer Christina Assi.

A spokesperson for the Israeli army said the journalists were in an “active combat zone” in southern Lebanon, an answer that Deloire called “not satisfactory.”

The war in Ukraine cost the life of two reporters in 2023, including AFP reporter Arman Soldin, “the only reporter to have lost their life outside their own country”, RSF said.

A total of 11 reporters have been killed since the start of the conflict in February 2022.

Fall in Latin America

There was a sharp drop in Latin America where six reporters were killed, down from 26 in 2022. In Mexico alone, the number fell to four from 11 the previous year.

RSF warned that Mexico remains dangerous for journalists, citing continued kidnappings and attacks.

Of the 84 journalists counted as missing worldwide, about a third are Mexican.

The number of jailed reporters declined to 521 from 569 in 2022, with Belarus joining China and Myanmar as “one of the three biggest prisons in the world”.

Turkey and Iran also repeatedly jail journalists, the report said. A total of 54 journalists are being held hostage, compared to 65 in 2022.

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