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Killing the canary: the international epidemiology of the homicide of media workers
  1. L Riddick,
  2. G Thomson,
  3. N Wilson,
  4. G Purdie
  1. Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. Dr G Thomson, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, Box 7343, Wellington South, New Zealand; george.thomson{at}


Objectives: To describe the international epidemiology of the homicide of media workers, and investigate country-level risk factors.

Methods: Data on the homicides occurring from 2002 to 2006 were collected and collated from five international databases. Analyses included consideration of seven existing international indices relating to human development, and to the social and political functioning of states.

Results: During the 5-year period, 370 deaths in 54 countries met our definitions of homicides and media workers. Almost all (89%) were nationals of the country in which they died. The annual number of such homicides globally has more than doubled, from 41 in 2002 to 104 in 2006 (including 49 in Iraq in 2006). Less than 25% of the homicides of media workers over the last 5 years have resulted in an arrest or prosecution. Statistically significant associations (p<0.001; Political Terror Scores, OR 1.15; Corruption Perceptions Index, OR 0.53; Overall Failed State Index, OR 1.05; Failed State Index 7, OR 1.52; Failed State Index 9, OR 1.55; Failed State Index 10, OR 1.61) were found on logistic regression between the occurrence of the homicide of media workers in countries and scoring on six of the seven indices associated with country-level sociopolitical development. These indices reflected high levels of political terror and corruption, low government legitimisation, poor human rights, and uncontrolled armed groups. However, in terms of the homicide rate for countries, these associations were significant for only four of the seven indices (the general functionality of government, ability of governments to control armed groups, the level of political terror, and the level of violation of rights).

Conclusions: The homicide of media workers increased substantially in this 5-year period and was found to be particularly concentrated in selected countries such as Iraq. The authors were able to identify specific sociopolitical risk factors for homicide occurrence, and for homicide rates at the country level.

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  • See Editorial, p 666

  • Funding: This study had partial funding support from the Wellington Medical Research Foundation (Inc), a not-for-profit research funding organisation in New Zealand.

  • Competing interests: None.

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