When an armed insurgency intensified its campaign across Iraq in recent weeks, journalists quickly began trickling into the conflict zone — despite the fact that the country is the most dangerous place in the world for them.
More journalists have been killed in Iraq than any other country in the world, according to data published by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since 1992, 248 media workers have lost their lives in the country, nearly double the amount in the second most dangerous country, the Philippines.
The majority of the deaths occurred during the Iraq War, which was the deadliest conflict for journalists on record. The war claimed the lives of 150 journalists, 85 percent of whom were locals.
Because they have an intimate knowledge of the area, locals often report from the most dangerous areas, said Jason Stern, a Middle East and North Africa Research Associate for the Committee to Protect Journalists. And because they don’t usually have the security measures afforded by the institutional backing of large western media organizations, they run the highest risk of being killed.
“Even though international journalists get the most attention in the media, it’s the local journalists who bear the most risk in any country,” Stern said.
The danger for reporters covering the recent uprising is compounded by the nature of the insurgents themselves, Stern said. Agents of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, the sectarian group spearheading the incursion, have no qualms killing reporters, he said.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the death of several journalists within the last year. One local reporter was killed and another was injured June 16 while covering military operations in the Diyala province in eastern Iraq. In December, ISIS agents killed five journalists in a raid on a TV station north of Baghdad.
And people who kill journalists in Iraq enjoy complete impunity, according to data gathered by the Committee to Protect Journalists. This serves to embolden the assailants and make future killings more likely, Stern said.
“There hasn’t been a single prosecution,” he said.