Press freedom more important than ever as UN condemns murder of 59 media workers |

On average over the past decade, a journalist has lost his life every four days, according to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, in a statement released on Wednesday.

Although 2020 saw one of the weakest tolls in years, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that rarely, if ever, has journalism been so relevant to democracy and protection. of human rights, as the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus and the ‘infodemic’ surrounding it.

“Protecting the Truth”

The pandemic has been a “perfect storm” that has affected press freedom around the world, Ms Azoulay continued, before insisting that “protecting journalism is protecting the truth”.

With 22 murders each, Latin America and the Caribbean, along with Asia and the Pacific, recorded the highest death toll among journalists.

This is followed by the Arab States region with nine deaths and Africa with six.

Impunity for crimes against journalists continued to prevail in almost nine out of 10 cases, despite a slight improvement in 2020, UNESCO said.

The UNESCO Director-General’s 2020 report on the safety of journalists and the danger of impunity, published on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, gave a overview of the patterns of killings of journalists over the past two years.

The launch of the report was accompanied by UNESCO’s high-impact global advocacy campaign, Protect Journalists. Protect the Truth.

“Too many murders are still happening and non-fatal attacks and harassment continue to skyrocket. 2020 has highlighted the dangers journalists face when reporting on protests such as the Black Lives Matter protests and other movements around the world,” UNESCO said.

The dangers of protest

Earlier this year, the agency identified 125 protests in 65 countries in which journalists were assaulted or arrested, between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2020. Twenty-one of these events took place during the first half of 2020, but the number of incidents continued to increase in the second half of the year.

In addition, UNESCO said, the safety of women journalists remains a major source of concern. “Targeted because of their profession and their gender, women journalists are particularly affected by online harassment and gender-based violence.

contagion crisis

Challenges to the safety of journalists have been exacerbated by COVID-19. “The crisis it triggered threatened the very viability and survival of professional media,” the agency said, due to the associated loss of advertising revenue, creating “an even more precarious environment for media workers with new challenges to their right to seek, receive and impart information.

In addition, in many countries, emergency legislation and measures adopted to curb the spread of the virus have been used as an alibi to restrict freedom of speech and of the press, the agency noted.

Journalists have also been sued for exposing failings in how governments have handled the pandemic.

Together, these conditions have formed what many have called a “perfect storm”, UNESCO added, raising fears that the journalism profession is facing “extinction”, as stated in the agency’s brief. Journalism, press freedom and COVID-19.

The UN rejects

To address these challenges, UNESCO has strengthened its outreach programs, engaged with justice systems around the world to fight impunity; strengthened the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity; produced timely and reliable information on challenges and increased capacity building opportunities for journalists and other media professionals.

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