In a year in which President Trump repeatedly labeled the news media as "the enemy of the people," the number of journalists killed on the job around the world reached at least 53 in 2018, with 34 of them singled out for murder because of their work.
According to an analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the total of journalists killed on duty was the highest in three years, while the number of those killed in conflict fell to its lowest level since 2011.
CPJ said 11 journalists were killed in combat or crossfire, while eight died working on dangerous assignments, such as covering protests that turn violent. In 2017, a total of 47 journalists were killed, 18 of whom were pinpointed for murder. In 2016, a total of 50 were killed.
According to CPJ, jailing of journalists hit a sustained high, which the group said adds up to a "profound global crisis in press freedom." Changes in technology, including social media, has made journalists expendable to political and criminal groups who once needed them to spread their message.
"Another significant factor is the lack of international leadership on journalists' rights and safety," said CPJ.
The murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October by Saudi agents was the most gruesome and widely publicized murder worldwide. Khashoggi was a vocal critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who the Central Intelligence Agency has said likely ordered the execution.
President Trump, however, has equivocated on blaming MBS and said the U.S. "intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia," citing that country's purchase of military equipment and opposition to Iran.
"Essentially, Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence," wrote CPJ.
Just days after four journalists and a sales associate were murdered by a gunman at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, MD, Trump resumed his attacks on the press, labeling the media "fake news" and journalists as "enemies of the people." He did so on social media and at his campaign style rallies, where he whips up his frenzied supporters and sometimes even pinpoints specific reporters whom he dislikes.
Trump's vicious and irresponsible attacks on reporters who are simply doing their jobs apparently is catching on in other countries, such as Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government has effectively shut down the independent media, according to CPJ, and is jailing more journalists than any other country.
Meanwhile, CPJ reported that 13 journalists were killed in Afghanistan in 2018, the most in any year since 2001, when the U.S. attacked the country and nine journalists were killed.
So the next time you hear Trump label reporters as "the enemy of the people," think about the work they are doing to keep us all free by reporting the news, including Trump's actions and activities, so we can be informed and form our own opinions free of influence by Trump's lies and embellishments.
So, I ask again. Who is the enemy of the people?