UNESCO concerned about press freedom worldwide, despite drop in media casualties in 2019

34

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 20 (APP)::While the number of journalists killed worldwide fell by almost half in 2019, journalists face ongoing risks and perpetrators enjoy almost total impunity for these crimes, according to the date of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists recorded 56 journalist killings in 2019, compared to 99 in 2018 – the lowest annual toll in more than a decade. In total, UNESCO recorded 894 journalist killings in the decade from 2010 to 2019, an average of almost 90 per year.

Journalists were murdered in all regions of the world, with Latin America and the Caribbean recording 22 killings, the highest number, followed by 15 in Asia-Pacific, and 10 in Arab States.

Most journalists were killed outside the conflict zones, it was pointed out.

The UNESCO data shows that targeting local affairs, such as politics, corruption and crime, is more dangerous for journalists than covering war zones. Last year, almost two-thirds of cases occurred in countries not experiencing armed conflict, and the vast majority involved reporters covering their local patch.

In November 2019, on the International Day to End Impunity Against Journalists, UNESCO launched a campaign, #KeepTruthAlive, to draw attention to the dangers faced by journalists close to their homes, highlighting the fact that 93 per cent of those killed worked locally. The campaign featured an interactive map, providing a vivid demonstration of the scale and breadth of the dangers faced by journalists worldwide.

In a statement released on Monday, UNESCO declared that attacks on journalists are an attempt to silence critical voices and restrict public access to information.

Aside from the risk of murder, journalists increasingly experience verbal and physical attacks in connection with their work. Over recent years, there has been a marked rise in imprisonment, kidnapping and physical violence, amid widespread rhetoric hostile to the media and journalists.

Women in the media are particular targets, says UNESCO — they are often targets of online harassment, and face threats of gender-based violence.

UNESCO said it is committed to improving the safety of journalists worldwide and ensure that crimes against them do not go unpunished.

A report published by the agency in November 2019 showed that only 10 per cent of attacks are prosecuted, and less than one in eight cases recorded by UNESCO since 2006 have been resolved.