Despite drop in journalist killings overall, risks emerge in conflict-free countries and impunity still rules, according to UNESCO report

4 November 2020

New statistics published by UNESCO ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, 2 November, show a 14% decline in the killing of journalists in 2018-2019 compared with the previous two-year period.

The new data are set out in the UNESCO Director-General's Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, and also show that the level of impunity for crimes against journalists is still extremely high with almost nine in ten cases remaining unpunished.

Although the number of journalists killed around the world has declined, far too many are still paying the ultimate price for their reporting. We remain deeply concerned about the increasing risks faced by media workers outside of conflict settings, and persisting impunity for these attacks. To preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression and ensure public access to reliable information, reporters must be able to carry out their work in free and safe conditions while those who perpetrate crimes against them must systematically be brought to justice.

- Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

According to the report, in 2018-2019, UNESCO recorded a total of 156 killings of journalists worldwide. Fifty-seven of them occurred in 2019, the lowest annual total in ten years.

The figures show that while journalist killings in countries experiencing armed conflict have declined significantly, this has not been the case in countries free of armed conflict. These countries registered the highest number of journalist killings in several years. This suggests a worrying trend whereby most journalists are now killed outside of armed conflict zones for covering corruption, human rights violations, environmental crimes, trafficking, and political wrongdoing.

The report also notes that journalism remains a dangerous profession whose practitioners face many types of threats, violence and harassment. Female journalists are particularly targeted by offline and online gender-based attacks that range from harassment, trolling and doxxing to physical and sexual assault.

While one journalist was killed somewhere in the world every four days over the past decade, impunity for these crimes still prevails. As of this year, 13% of these cases worldwide were reported by UN Member States to have been resolved with a judicial process brought to completion. This represents a slight improvement, compared to 12% in 2019 and 11% in 2018.

The highest number of fatal attacks in 2018-2019 occurred in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region, representing 31% of the total journalists’ killings registered worldwide, followed by the Asia Pacific Region with 30% of killings.

UNESCO’s flagship event for the Day to End Impunity will take place online on 9-10 December as part the World Press Freedom Conference organized with the Government of the Netherlands. The event will focus on the need to strengthen the role of the judiciary, particularly of prosecutors, in investigating and prosecuting crimes and attacks against journalists. These are the subject of new guidelines that UNESCO will launch on that occasion.

UNESCO and its partners are also organizing other events in more than 18 countries around the world on the International Day to End Impunity, aiming to raise awareness of societies’ obligation to bring to justice those who use violence to silence the media and who thereby violate the basic human right to freedom of expression and deprive the public of vital information.

UNESCO will also launch a global campaign on social media for the Day. This campaign pays tribute to journalists’ brave commitment to reporting the truth and calls on authorities everywhere to bring the cases of murdered journalists to justice. It aims to urge people to help protect journalists and to overcome indifference to the impunity that benefits those who attack the media.

The International Day to End Impunity underlines the gravity of these attacks on freedom of expression, which constitute a brutal and illegal form of censorship. (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, hashtag #EndImpunity and #ProtectJournalists).

The Director-General's Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity will be discussed by Member States during the meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication, 25-26 November.

• Share the videos, GIFS, newspaper ads and messages available in 6 languages by visiting the page of the UNESCO Director-General's Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity for more information.

Events organized or co-organized by UNESCO for the International Day to End Impunity within the framework of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

• Media contact: Clare O'Hagan .
impunity+freedom of expression+journalism+freedom of speech+safety of journalists

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