The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 journalists in 94 countries since March 2020, but the figure is “a low overall estimate,” according to a report published on Friday.
At least 1,400 media workers succumbed to the virus in 2021, an average of 116 each month or around four a day, the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) said.
“The actual number of victims is certainly higher, as the cause of journalists’ deaths is sometimes not specified, or their deaths not announced,” the group said.
“In some countries, there is no reliable information, and the 2,000 figure is a low overall estimate.”
The PEC noted that the death toll slowed down last year after vaccines became available.
Of the 1,940 deaths of journalists registered by the PEC since March 2020, just about half – 954 to be precise – were in Latin America.
Asia followed with a death toll of 556, ahead of Europe at 263, Africa with 98, and North America at 69.
More than 50 of the fatalities are still under investigation, the group said.
Among countries, Brazil and India lead the count with 295 and 279 deaths, respectively.
However, the figure could be as high as 400 in India, according to Nava Thakuria, the PEC’s representative for the South Asian country.
Peru has recorded 199 virus deaths of journalists, followed by Mexico with 122, Colombia at 79, and Bangladesh with 68.
In the US, at least 67 journalists have died of COVID-19, while Italy has the highest toll of 61 among all European states.
It was followed by Venezuela (59), Ecuador (51), Argentina (46), Indonesia (42), Russia (42), Iran (34), the UK (33), Turkiye (29), Dominican Republic (29), Pakistan (27), Nepal (23), Egypt (22), and Bolivia (20).
Honduras, South Africa, Spain, and Ukraine all have registered 19 deaths so far, the PEC said.
Impact of vaccines
“After a spike in deadly infections in the first half of 2021, the death toll thankfully slowed in the second half thanks to advances in vaccination,” said PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen.
In the first half of 2021, the virus killed 1,175 journalists, but the figure dropped to 225 in the second half, with an increase in Europe and a sharp decrease in Latin America and Asia.
Lempen said the PEC is hopeful that the slowdown will continue in 2022, but the rising infection numbers due to the spread of the omicron variant are a cause for concern.
He urged media workers to take all necessary precautions, including booster vaccine shots.