Threats that Silence: Trends in the Safety of Journalists

3 November 2021

The past five years show that the perpetrators continue to get away with murder in nine of every 10 killings of journalists, and that other threats continue to mount against news reporters.

For the period 20162020, UNESCO recorded 400 killings of journalists. This figure is a nearly 20 percent decrease from the previous five-year period. Yet, unabated levels of impunity for these cases correlate with increases in imprisonment and other attacks. The daunting combination, including online violence, spurs self-censorship.

This Insights discussion paper records these trends, alongside new analysis that elucidates what is unique about violence against journalists. Also recorded are recent international and national level efforts to protect journalists and their vital work.

The research presented here also constitutes a chapter on trends in the safety of journalists of the forthcoming full edition of UNESCOs World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development: Global Report 2021/2022. The full World Trends Report responds to a key task agreed at UNESCOs 36th General Conference in 2011, for the Organization to monitor and report on contemporary developments in press freedom and the safety of journalists. For UNESCO, a free and safe media environment, along with an end to impunity for crimes against journalists, is essential if societies are to receive reliable information as produced by media workers who can do their jobs without fear.

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