By Robin Gomes
The UN Secretary-General is inviting all to “stand up together for journalists, for truth and for justice”, warning, “When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.” “Without the ability to protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and contribute to decision-making, is severely hampered,” he said in a message for the 2 November International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
The UN General Assembly established the annual observance in a resolution on 18 December 2013, urging Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date commemorates the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.
Violence, impunity on the rise
In his statement, the Secretary-General noted the rise in the scale and number of attacks on journalists and media workers, as well as incidents that make their work much harder, including “threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access and failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against them”.
In a separate message, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, pointed out that in the last 10 years, at least 881 journalists have been killed around the world for simply telling the truth. Forty-four have died so far in 2019 alone, she noted, lamenting that in almost nine out of 10 cases, these crimes have gone unpunished.
According to a new UNESCO study, the risks that journalists face, showing that almost 90 per cent of those found responsible for the deaths of more than 1,100 of them, between 2006 and 2018, have not been convicted.
The report, “Intensified Attacks, New Defences”, also notes that killings of journalists have risen by some 18 per cent in the past five years (2014-2018), compared to the previous five-year period.
The deadliest countries for journalists, according to the statistics, are Arab States, where almost a third of the killings took place. The Latin American and Caribbean region (26 per cent), and Asian and Pacific States (24 per cent) are the next most dangerous.
Journalists are often murdered for their reporting on politics, crime and corruption, and this is reflected in the study, which reveals that, in the past two years (2017-2018), more than half of journalist fatalities were in non-conflict zones.
Guterres noted that the proportion of women among fatalities has also risen, and women journalists increasingly face gendered forms of violence, such as sexual harassment, sexual assault and threats.
A high-profile example is the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. According to the UN, too little has been done by the Maltese authorities to investigate the killing.
Keep Truth Alive
This year, the UNESCO has launched the #KeepTruthAlive social media campaign, which draws attention to the dangers faced by journalists close to their homes, highlighting the fact that 93% of those killed work locally, and featuring an interactive map created for the campaign, which provides a vivid demonstration of the scale and breadth of the dangers faced by journalists worldwide.
Azoulay pointed out that the campaign shines the spotlight on local journalists working on corruption and politics in non-conflict situations, who represented 93% of journalist deaths in the past decade. She stressed that the end of a journalist’s life should never be the end of the quest for truth.
The UN Secretary-General invited all to “stand up together for journalists, for truth and for justice”. (Source: UN)