The headline over at NBC News is shocking: “United States added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for first time.” And the statement from Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders certainly makes it sound like a combination of political leaders and religious extremism are threatening the lives of America’s reporters: “The hatred of journalists that is voiced . . . by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists.”
But the information in the report is . . . considerably less shocking. Here’s the entirety of what the report says about the United States:
The United States joined the ranks of the world’s deadliest countries for the media this year, with a total of six journalists killed. Four journalists were among the five employees of the Capital Gazette, a local newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, who were killed on 28 June when a man walked in and opened fire with a shotgun. He had been harassing the newspaper for six years on Twitter about a 2011 article that named him. It was the deadliest attack on a media outlet in the US in modern history. Two other journalists, a local TV anchor and cameraman, were killed by a falling tree while covering Subtropical Storm Alberto’s extreme weather in North Carolina in May.
What happened at the Capital Gazette did not involve unscrupulous politicians or demagogic religious leaders. It involved a long series of open threats from an unstable, rage-filled man and the decision to allow the shooter to plead guilty to stalking instead of harassment back in 2011. Had the shooter been convicted of stalking, his felony conviction would have prevented him from purchasing a gun.
A falling tree does not reflect “hatred of journalists,” unless Reporters Without Borders wants to argue that the tree aimed for those two unfortunate souls.