Journalism is a highly respectable job but can turn out to be life-threatening for some. These deaths either occur while reporting an incident or due to their status as a journalist. Going into the depths of deaths of journalists can be a tough task, as a large number of cases are falsely deemed to be a personal issue or involve a love affair.
The years 2015 and 2016 saw a spike in the deaths of journalists with both the years exceeding the 100 mark. Comparatively, 2017 was significantly better, as Wikipedia and other reliable sources reported 71 journalistic deaths.1
However, a handful of these deaths was particularly striking due to the sheer brutality. After having gone through each case of killing, I have compiled a chronologically-ordered list of eight of the most tragic and gruesome deaths of journalists in 2017.
1. Igor Padilla was a well-known Honduran journalist who was killed in a coordinated attack on January 17. A phone call prompted him out of his workplace, and unknown assailants shot him several times.
He was a renowned journalist and covered crimes for the national TV channel HCH. Moreover, he produced a comedy show and several films, including Chincheman.
The murdered occurred on January 17 in the city of San Pedro Sula. As per witnesses, Igor received a phone call which prompted him out of the children’s shop where he was supervising the filming of a commercial announcement. Later, several men disguised in police uniforms opened fire on him.
On July 9, Igor Padilla’s coworkers José Mauricio Santos and Edwin Rivera Pa were murdered in Mexico by a couple of hit men on motorcycles.(source)
2. Miroslava Breach Velducea was a Mexican correspondent for La Jornada and Norte de Juárez. She used to report news on drug trafficking, human rights violation, and government corruption. On March 23, a gunman shot her eight times as she was leaving home in her car.
She was an investigative journalist and chiefly covered news on crime, politics, and a combination of the two. Since January 2017, Miroslava had managed her own news agency, MIR, and was a valuable contributor to the Chihuahua-based news website Norte, which announced its closure after her murder.
On 23 March 2017, an unidentified gunman shot Miroslava Breach, aged 54, eight times as she was leaving home in her car. Fortunately, one of her three children accompanied her but did not suffer any injury during the process. Breach later died while being transported to the hospital.
Furthermore, La Jornada reported that there was a note at the crime scene, which read: “For being a snitch. You’re next, governor.–The 80.” As per the police, “The 80” is a reference to the criminal gang leader Arturo Quintana.(source)
3. In Myanmar, publisher Wai Yan Heinn, 27, was found dead in a chair with 15 stab wounds on April 16.
Wai Yan Heinn was a publisher and editor of The Iron Rose, a weekly news magazine. He often condemned the politics and military in a country where the freedom of speech still faces significant hindrance.
The police found his body lying on a chair when the neighbors complained of a pungent odor from his office in Yangon. Later, they reported 15 knife stab wounds on his chest and abdomen.
4. Khaled al-Khateb was a Syrian freelance reporter for RT Arabic. He was killed on July 30 in an ISIS rocket attack in the eastern Homs province.
— Leith Aboufadel (@leithfadel) July 30, 2017
Al-Khateb had only just joined RT Arabic, a Russian-government-funded broadcaster, at the end of April 2017. The job included the coverage of developments on fighting in the Homs region. More specifically, Al-Khateb had been interviewing the families of victims of the country’s ongoing conflicts along with several refugees. A cameraman used to accompany him while he did the reporting on-air.
At a young age of 25, he succumbed when the Islamic state launched a rocket near the village of Sukhna. As per his colleagues and family members, Khaled al-Khateb had a strong desire to convey the truth of the conflict in his homeland.(1,2)
5. The death of Kim Wall on August 10 in the Danish Køge Bay was one of the most gruesome deaths of journalists in 2017. She was on the submarine to interview the Danish entrepreneur Peter Madsen. Her dismembered and dumped body was later found on a beach, and the Copenhagen City Court sentenced Madsen to life imprisonment.
Kim Wall was a notable and an established Swedish freelance journalist. For several months, she had been chasing an interview with the Danish entrepreneur Peter Madsen. Subsequently, the latter, who boasted a “semi-celebrity” status in Denmark, requested Kim to interview him during the trip on his submarine UC3 Nautilus.
At the trial that ensued, the Copenhagen City Court convicted Peter Madsen of premeditated murder, sexual assault, and dismembering Kim’s body before dumping her in the bay. A cyclist discovered her body on a beach on August 21.
In October 2017, Prix Europa nominated her post obit for the Outstanding Achievement Award “Journalist of the Year.” Furthermore, the Swedish broadcaster SVT paid tribute by screening a documentary titled Hon Som Ville Berätta (“The Woman Who Wanted to Tell”).(1,2)
6. Syrian-American journalist Halla Barakat, 22, and her mother Orouba, 60, were choked and stabbed to death in their apartment on September 22 in Istanbul. The criminal, a Syrian man, is now serving back-to-back life sentences in Turkey.
Both the mother and the daughter were actively involved in opposing Bashar al-Assad’s presidential system in Syria. Orouba Barakat was a renowned and vocal critic of al-Assad and a member of the Syrian Nation Coalition. Also, she wrote in detail on the use of torture in the government prisons.
Halla Barakat had worked as a correspondent for Turkey’s TRT World and Dubai’s Orient News. Also, she worked on an investigation that ABC News conducted to look into Iraqi special forces’ war crimes.
The criminal, Ahmet Barakat, was a relative of the journalists and confessed that he committed the killings when Orouba could not produce his due wages. He first stabbed Orouba, and when Halla witnessed the crime, he stabbed her to death as well.(1,2)
7. On 30 October 2017, eight men broke into Kurdish journalist Arkan Sharifi’s house and stabbed him to death in front of his family.
Arkan Sharifi worked as a cameraman for Kurdistan TV and had recently returned to Daquq, a city south of Kirkuk. Kurdistan TV had been covering clashes in northeastern Iraq along with killings and kidnappings in Kirkuk.
Reportedly, eight masked men broke into the Daquq house of Arkan Sharifi while his family was present. The unidentified assailants locked the wife and children in a room and then knifed Sharifi to death. Several hours later, the wife came out to find Sharifi’s mutilated body lying in a pool of blood, and a knife stuck in his mouth.
8. Mexican journalist Gumaro Pérez Aguilando was shot to death at his son’s school on December 19, making him the 12th journalist killed in Mexico in 2017.
Journalist Gumaro Pérez Aguilando was a local crime reporter for several publications. Furthermore, he founded La Voz del Sur, a news site based in Acayucan, a city where drug cartel and other organized criminal activities have been prevalent.
As per the State Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists, there were no death threats against Gumaro Pérez. The assassination occurred on December 19, when Gumaro was attending a Christmas show at his son’s school in Acayucan. Reportedly, several gunmen marauded the school and shot him dead in a classroom packed with schoolchildren.(1,2)
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