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CPJ Confirms 69 Journalists Killed in Action in 2015

Syria and France were the deadliest countries for journalists in 2015, according to a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists. A separate report from Reporters Without Borders, also released Tuesday had Iraq as the deadliest country for journalists.

CPJ found that there were 69 journalists killed for their work (motive confirmed), with 40% of those killed by Islamic militants, nine of those in France. That is up from 61 confirmed killings in 2014. There are also additional journalists deaths CPJ is investigating but has yet to determine whether or not they were work-related. Deaths included reprisal killings and those killed in combat or crossfire.

Among those 69 were two from the U.S., Adam Ward and Allison Parker, the WDBJ Roanoke news team murdered on-air by a former reporter with the station.

Syria topped the list with 13 deaths, followed by France with 9, all but one of those due to the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 that left 8 dead.

For the past three years, deaths in Syria have far outpaced those in other countries, but in 2015 the deaths were also widely distributed, according to the study, with at least five each in Iraq, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Sudan and Yemen.

The reduction in deaths is partly attributed to the decisions by many news organizations not to send journalists into the country and local journalists who fled. But the number also may have to do with the increasing difficulty of researching cases there, CPJ said. For example, there were reports of up to 35 journalists killed, missing or captive in Mosul (Iraq), but CPJ could only confirm a handful of deaths.

CPJ said it investigated reports of 90 journalists who reportedly died covering Syria in 2015, but could only confirm the 13 cases.

Another problem is the "militarization" of journalists in the region, CPJ said in the report.

"[N]early one third of cases researched were either members of armed groups or had so many pictures of the 'journalist' wielding weapons that CPJ could not rule out the possibility they were combatants," the report said. "This fact poses significant ramifications not just for CPJ's research but for journalists in Syria and elsewhere."

Reporters Without Borders also released its list of journalists killed in 2015 and could confirm 67 of those were related to their work (the two U.S. journalists were not included in the tally). By its calculations, Iraq was number one with 11 deaths (CPJ had only 5 there), followed by Syria with 10 and France with 8.

Actually, the Reporters Without Borders list will increase to 68 following the killing Sunday (Dec. 27) of Syrian journalist Naji Jerf in Southeaster Turkey, which occurred after the report had been compiled. According to the organization, Jerf had told it about threats he had gotten and his plans to move to France, saying in his Visa application that he feared for his safety, according to the group.