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Most murders of journalists remain unpunished

Most murders of journalists remain unpunished

The vast majority of murders of journalists in the world go unpunished, and governments and all parties involved must redouble efforts to investigate the cases and punish those responsible, the United Nations Educational, Scientific Organization and Culture (Unesco) said.

“On the tenth anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists, I call on governments and all stakeholders to redouble their efforts to end impunity for crimes against journalists,” said the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay.

A report from the entity indicated that in the 2020-2021 biennium, 117 journalists were murdered, and in 2022, until September 30, at least another 66.

The year 2021 was the year with the lowest number of these crimes, with 55 murders, with the paradox that only 36% of the cases occurred in countries with armed conflicts; 41% were multiplatform journalists, and the number of female journalists killed doubled, from six to 11%.

For UNESCO, this is a worrying increase, which is associated with online gender attacks suffered by informants, and which often lead to expressions of violence offline, putting their safety at risk.

Until 2022, impunity reached 86% of cases, very little below the 89% registered in 2018 and just nine per cent less than 10 years ago, a decrease that UNESCO considered “very insufficient”.

Azoulay stated that “freedom of expression cannot be protected when there are such a staggering number of unsolved cases. This has a chilling effect on investigative journalism, vital to the health of any democracy.”

The report highlighted that 91 of the 117 journalists killed in 2020-2021 died outside of working hours at home, in their car or on the street, without fulfilling any specific mission. Several were killed in front of their families, including minors.

“There are no safe spaces for journalists,” admitted UNESCO.

In the 2020-2021 period, the deadliest regions for journalists were Asia and the Pacific, with 45 murders, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean, with 38 cases, Africa with 16, and the Arab countries with 12.

The figures disaggregated by country in the period marked Mexico in the lead with 19 murders, followed by Afghanistan with 13, India with 11, Pakistan with nine and the Philippines with seven.

During the period, six journalists were killed while covering riots or demonstrations, compared to three in the 2016-2017 biennium.

This year, UNESCO sent a request for information to the 65 states in which it registered murders of 1,284 journalists between 2006 and 2021. In 1,076 of these cases, it has no evidence that they have been resolved judicially.

Of the 65 States requested, 36 responded, six barely accepted the request and another 23 did not respond at all.

Also this year, 13 countries communicated to UNESCO the development of measures for the protection of journalists: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Iraq, Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Paraguay, the Philippines, Tanzania and the United Kingdom.

Eight countries reported on new or ongoing initiatives and mechanisms related to the prosecution of crimes against journalists: Bahrain, Colombia, Georgia, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, the Philippines, and Somalia.

And finally, 16 countries reported new or ongoing developments related to the safety of women journalists, including initiatives that go beyond safety but can be seen as improving working conditions for women journalists.

Those countries are Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Georgia, Greece, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mexico, the Netherlands, Palestine, Peru, the Philippines, Somalia, the United Kingdom, and Tanzania.

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