Iraq: Why The Journo Death Tolls Differ

By Brian 

Former CNN executive Eason Jordan, the founder and CEO of Praedict and IraqSafetyNet, e-mailed TVNewser to offer some context for these statistics about the danger faced by journalists in Iraq:

“I wanted to take a shot at explaining why there are sharply differing accounts of the number of journalists killed in Iraq. At least three groups track the death toll: the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (known by its French acronym (RSF), and the International News Safety Institute (INSI).

The CPJ maintains two tallies of those killed in Iraq, one for full-fledged journalists killed (61) and the other for media (support) workers (23). The RSF combines those categories in its one count (79). The INSI also maintains a single death toll (101).

Until this war in Iraq, the CPJ routinely tracked only the killing of full-fledged journalists in conflicts, excluding from its tallies the deaths of media support workers such as translators, drivers, and security guards. In 2004, after CPJ member news organizations questioned why the names of some of their employees killed in Iraq were not included in the CPJ Iraq war count, the CPJ began a separate tally of media support workers.

The combined CPJ number (82) and the RSF number (79) are roughly the same, while the INSI number (101) is much higher. Why? The answer: mostly because the INSI, unlike the CPJ and the RSF, includes in its count journalists and media support workers on assignment who died of health ailments, traffic accidents, and other cases of non-hostile action.

While some have questioned the appropriateness of including non-hostile deaths in the count, it’s only fair to point out the Pentagon’s tally of U.S. service member fatalities in Iraq (2,241 as of today) includes deaths by non-hostile action (484) as well as hostile action (1,751). On that basis, the INSI count is defensible, although the INSI should make clear on its Web site it’s tracking the death toll (hostile and non-hostile), not only the number of those killed.”