War Correspondents: Journalist Fatalities in Middle Eastern Conflicts

By Michael Burch
Submitted to Session P5019 (Protest, Repression, and Cooptation Before and After the Arab Uprisings, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
All Middle East;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
When do actors decide to target journalists during violent conflicts? The taped executions of journalists during the Syrian Civil War generated headlines around the world and led to media claims that this particular civil war is the deadliest in history for reporters. However, there are fundamental issues with this assertion. It has not been empirically tested that the Syrian Civil War is an outlier in targeting journalists and no explanation has been given to why there might be more casualties in Syria compared to other conflicts. In this study, we examine violent conflicts in the Middle East and argue that the dynamics of the conflict matter in determining the rate in which the regime, paramilitaries, or rebel groups target both foreign and local journalists. When it comes to international journalists, the possible threat of outside intervention by another actor will increase the probability that both governments and non-state actors will engage in violence against journalists. The motivation in doing so is to shape the representation of the conflict with the hope of discouraging outside interference. In particular, we argue that groups and governments that articulate rivalrous ideologies with NATO members are most likely to engage in the targeting of foreign journalists. When it comes to local journalists, we argue that they are in greater danger of being targeted the more equal the distribution of capabilities is between the government and violent non-state actors in the conflict. When military capabilities reach parity, journalists are targeted at a higher rate as part of the competition for support between actors. We test our theory with a mixed-method approach by first employing statistical analysis with new cross-national data on the deaths of journalists in the Middle East from 1989 to 2015 in all intrastate conflicts. We then use process tracing to capture the variation in the targeting of journalists in the Algerian Civil War, the Yemeni Civil War of 1994 and the ongoing conflict in Syria. Using both a cross-national approach coupled with within-case analysis we are able to shed light on the calculations made to target the media during wartime.