The killing fields: Three decades of journalists killed on duty

Whether murdered or caught in the crossfire, hundreds of journalists were killed in Europe over the past three decades because of their profession. MaltaToday looks at the salient cases

People rallied in France as a show of defiance after terrorists gunned down journalists from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo
People rallied in France as a show of defiance after terrorists gunned down journalists from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo

Journalism was named as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world by the United Nations in 2011.

The majority of the journalists murdered in Europe were reporting in their own country when they were killed, and many of them have received threats prior to being assassinated. Others were working on dangerous assignments – caught in crossfire or killed by military or paramilitary groups. In cases of political violence, prosecutions are rare.


A number of journalists were killed in Bosnia while covering the war between 1992 and 1995. Among them were correspondents for daily Oslobodjenje Klasif Smajlovic who was murdered by Serbian soldiers, and Kruno Marinovic of Croatian State Radio went missing in 1992 and was presumed dead. David Kaplan was a producer for ABC News who was shot by a sniper while part of a convoy taking Serbian premier Milan Panic to the United Nations headquarters. Karmela Sojanovic from Oslobodjenje was killed by a sniper in her home in 1993.

Freelancers Guido Puletti who was working for Mondo Economico was shot and killed while traveling with a relief convoy that was ambushed, and Ibrahim Goskel was shot at Sarajevo airport. Mohammed Hussein Navab, a correspondent for Tehran daily Keyhan, was taken captive and murdered by Croat militiamen in 1994.

Jordi Pujol of Catalan-language daily Avui was killed by an exploding mortar shell in Sarajevo in May 1992, and Salko Hondo from Oslobodjenje was killed by a grenade that fell on an open market in the same year. Ivo Standeker of Slovenian magazine Mladina succumbed to injuries from tanks and mortar shells in June 1996.

Other journalists who died from injuries caused by military action were Georg Friderich Pfuhl, Tihomir Tunukovic, Dominique Lonneux, Tasar Omer, Dario D’Angelo, Marco Luchetta, Alessandra Otta, Brian Brinton, Francis Tomasic.


In 1992 British photojournalist Paul Jenks from European Pressphoto Agency was shot by a sniper in Eastern Croatia. BBC radio reporter John Schofield was killed in crossfire by Croat forces in 1995.

Owner and editorial director of Croatian political weekly Nacional – which exposed corruption and organised crime – Ivo Pukanic was murdered by a car bomb outside the newsroom in 2008.


Nicolas Giudici often covered stories on the separatist movements in Corsica and wrote a critical assessment of Corsican society in 1997. He was shot three times in July 2001 but investigations failed to uncover a clear motive.

Guillaume Barreau-Decherf was a rock critic killed during a concert at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, where 130 died at the hands of gunmen linked to the Islamic State on November 2015.

In January 2015, two men armed with Kalshnikovs stormed into the Charlie Hebdo newsroom, killing 12 people. Among them were George WolinksiJen Cabut, Stephanie CharbonnierBernard VerlhacElsa CayatMoustapha OurradPhilippe Honore, and freelancer Bernard Maris.


Sokratis Giolas, director of Thema Radio and contributor of Troktiko, was shot a dozen times and murdered by men wearing police uniforms in 2010. He was working on a corruption-related story at the time.


Crime reporter for the Sunday Independent Veronica Guerin was shot and killed in 1996 following a string of attacks and threats due to her continued involvement in investigating Ireland’s criminal underground.


Crime reporter for Latvian daily Kurzseme Vards Gundars Matiss was severely beaten in his home in 2008 and died after slipping into a coma. His most recent investigation was related to the illegal alcohol trade in Liepaja.


Vitas Lingis, deputy editor of Republica was shot in the head and spine in 1993. He investigated corruption and the criminal underground in Lithuania, and four people were convicted for his murder in 1994.

Flowers and candles left by mourners near the bomb site where Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered
Flowers and candles left by mourners near the bomb site where Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered


In 2017, investigative blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a remotely-triggered car bomb near her home. She was a staunch critic of the government, while also targeting the opposition, and covered stories of alleged corruption and crime, including the Panama Papers scandal.


Founder and editor of Nasza Mlawa Lukasz Masiak died after being assaulted in 2015. He reported on drugs, the environment, and martial arts competitors. An arrest warrant was issued for a martial arts instructor but it is not clear whether anyone was charged, and Polish police could not find a link between the journalist’s work and his murder. Masiak was often the target of threats and assaults in the past due to his journalism.


Milan Pantic who worked for Vecernje Novosti was murdered outside his apartment on July 11 2001. He reported mostly on criminal activities and trials in Jagodina, Serbia, and had often received threats as a result of his work. The case remains open.

A reporter for Albanian daily Bota Sot, Bardhyl Ajeti, was shot in Kosovo in 2005 after receiving threats. No clear motives were revealed, but the journalist often criticised opposition party members in his work. He supported international authorities who arrested Kosova Liberation Army members and criticised Albanian nationalist protestors.


In 2000, a contributor of El Mundo, Lopez de la Calle, was shot outside his home. He criticised the Basque separatist group ETA, whom he had received death threats from in the past.

Two other Spanish journalists received letter bombs prior to de la Calle’s murder, but these were safely disabled by police, while a bomb exploded in the home of another journalist. ETA was considered responsible for all attacks but no arrests were made.

United Kingdom

Investigative journalist Martin O’Hagan of Sunday World was shot outside his home in Northern Ireland in 2001. He covered both Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups, and had previously received death threats from Protestant militants. The Red Hand Defenders – believed to be a name for militants from the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and Ulster Defence Association, all Protestant militant groups – claimed responsibility for the murder. O’Hagan had been working on stories related to the LVF before he died.


In 1995, Vladimir Ivanov, editor-in-chief of The Glory of Sevastopol was hit by a remotely triggered bomb in a garbage can outside his home, and died four days later. Prior to his death, Ivanov condemned the Crimean mafia and wrote against the construction of an oil refinery by a Ukrainian-Swedish company.

Freelancer Igor Hrushetsky was murdered by a blow to the head in his home in 1996, shortly after testifying in a criminal case involving the son of a police official.

Editor-in-chief of Vechernyaya Odessa, Borys Derevyanko, was shot on his way to work in 1997. Colleagues believed the murder was tied to the newspaper’s objections to the policies of the mayor of Odessa.

Georgy Gongadze of Ukrainska Pravda was murdered in 2000. Government officials remain the prime suspects in the killing due to an audiotape that seems to implicate two senior aides, as well as the unusual and negligent nature of the ‘investigation’ of his death, leading to suspicions regarding its credibility.

Director of independent TV company Tor, Igor Aleksandrov was assaulted and killed in 2001. His investigative TV program, Bez Retushi (Without Censorship), covered stories of corruption and organised crime.

Reporter for daily Vesti, Vyacheslav Veremiy, was shot in the chest by a group of masked men in Kiev, allegedly pro-government protestors.

Photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli was killed after a mortar shell exploded in a ditch where he hid while covering the conflict between the Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian separatists in 2014. Igor Kornelyuk from VGTRK also succumbed to wounds from a mortar shell in the same year, as did Antoly Klyan of Pervy Kanal (Channel One), who died from a bullet wound during the negotiated surrender of a Ukrainian army unit. Also in 2014, photojournalist Andrei Stenin of pro-Kremlin Rossiya Segodnya was killed during an attack by the Ukrainian army. Photographer Serhiy Nikolayev was killed in crossfire in 2015 – and both the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists blamed each other for his death.

Pavel Sheremet of Ukrainska Pravda, was murdered by a car bomb while driving in 2016. Prior to his murder, he was writing about Ukrainian volunteer battalion fighters who joined criminal gangs, Russian government propagandists, as well as corruption among Belarus police and Ukranian government officials.


More in Europe