Sabine C. Carey, Anita R. Gohdes
Understanding journalist killings

The Journal of Politics, 2021: 83, issue 4, pp. 1216-1228
ISSN: 0022-3816 (print), 1468-2508 (online)

Why do state authorities murder journalists? We show that the majority of journalists are killed in democracies and present an argument that focuses on institutional differences between democratic states. In democracies, journalists will most likely be targeted by local state authorities that have limited options to generally restrict press freedom. Where local governments are elected, negative reporting could mean that local politicians lose power and influence, especially if they are involved in corrupt practices. Analyzing new global data on journalist killings that identify the perpetrator and visibility of the journalist, we show that local-level elections carry an inherent risk, particularly for less visible journalists. Killings perpetrated by criminal groups follow a similar pattern to those by state authorities, pointing to possible connections between these groups. Our study shows that without effective monitoring and accountability, national democratic institutions alone are unable to effectively protect journalists from any perpetrator.