Syrian rebels are seen in the city of Homs, where French photographer Remi Ochlik and American newspaper reporter Marie Colvin (inset) were killed in February, 2012, in government shelling. / CBS/AP
LONDON The number of journalists killed doing their jobs jumped by a staggering 42 percent in 2012, according to a report by the non-profit group Committee to Protect Journalists, which said Syria's civil war was largely to blame.
CPJ said it's confirmed that 67 journalists have been killed in 2012 in direct relation to the work they were carrying out. That figure is just seven shy of the CPJ's deadliest year on record, 2009. CPJ has been keeping track of journalist killings since 1992.
According to the report, an increase in deaths in Somalia, Pakistan, and "a worrying increase in Brazilian murders" also contributed to the high death toll in 2012.
Syria, however, remained the deadliest place to work as a journalist, with 28 of the deaths occurring there. Four international journalists have been killed, including the veteran American newspaper war reporter Marie Colvin, who was killed in government shelling of Homs, Syria, alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik on February 2nd. Colvin was reporting for the Sunday Times of Britain.
The two other foreigners killed -- also in Syria -- were Gilles Jacquier of France and Japan Press journalist Mika Yamamoto.
Syria's war has become so dangerous for journalists for several reasons. President Bashar Assad has banned reporters from working independently in the country. When the rare visa is granted, journalists are kept under close watch and given only the regime's perspective. In search of the other side of the story, many organizations, including CBS News, have sent journalists to Syria's foreign borders to try and enter the country illegally with the help of rebel fighters.
CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward last crossed the border from Turkey in October. She says the regime's bombardment seems random, and appears to have actively targeted civilian areas -- schools, hospitals and mosques are all regularly hit.
Compounding that, says Ward, "there are the logistical difficulties: you often can't use a cell phone or BlackBerry, access to the internet is spotty, communication and coordination among the various groups is lacking. These factors make it difficult to share information in real time, and that creates a security risk."
"The Syrian people are suffering tremendously. They have been bombed and shelled and shot at for nearly two years. Everyone you meet has lost someone, so there is a great deal of fear and very little trust," said Ward. "In any situation where you have a power vacuum, where people can't afford sky-rocketing food prices and where bread is increasingly hard to come by, there are going to be criminal elements who emerge to take advantage of that."
Even the rebels with whom journalists are forced to travel come from a wide variety of backgrounds and motivations. The opposition has become more unified but there are still conflicts of interest, and when the other, pro-regime factions such as the domestic "Shabiha" militia, the extremist group Hezbollah, and the Syrian state military are added to the mix, the result is a place where security cannot be guaranteed.
With the world's eyes shielded from the violence in Syria, dozens of Syrians without any training have picked up cameras and cell phones and became citizen journalists, desperate to convey the brutality of the war to the international community. According to CPJ's report, "at least 13 of them paid the ultimate price."
Among the Syrian journalists killed in 2012 was a boy of just 17, Anas al-Tarsha, who died trying to film government shelling of Homs in February, just several weeks after Colvin and Ochlik were killed, CPJ said.
The vast majority -- 94 percent according to CPJ -- of the journalists killed in 2012, like previous years, were covering the news in their own nations.
Not surprisingly, the number of slain journalists who worked primarily for online outlets rose significantly in 2012. CPJ said a third of those killed were web journalists, compared to just a fifth the previous year.