Prevent attacks on journalists

free press

The latest Unesco report on journalists, titled ”Intensified Attacks, New Defences”, has again underlined the serious hazards faced by journalists all over the world and stressed the need to ensure their safety and security. The UN body makes a status report every year to draw attention to the challenges faced by media personnel and the need to ensure free and unfettered functioning of the media. This year’s report, published last week on the eve of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, calls for effective steps to prevent attacks on journalists and for deterrent actions against perpetrators. It was noted that about 90% of those responsible for the killing of 1,109 journalists from all over the world from 2006 to 2018 have not been apprehended or convicted. No other category of persons has faced such a denial of justice even in death.  

The report has recorded an 18% increase in journalists’ killings in the past five years compared to the previous five-year period, though the killings this year till October 30 are less than those during the same period last year. But the general trend is of rising attacks on journalists. The most dangerous place for journalists is the Arab region, but Asia is not far behind. Most attacks come from organised crime groups, security personnel and even the police. Other reports have shown that threats and attacks have come from political and official authorities and other influential sections. The attacks range from intimidation, harassment and abductions to illegal arrests and murder. Journalists are often targeted for their reporting on politics, crime and corruption. About 93 of those killed are local journalists. 

One surprising revelation is that about 55% of the killings of journalists in the past two years have occurred in non-conflict zones. The inference is that peacetime reporting of society is more dangerous than war reporting. The report notes that failure to take action against the killers of journalists encourages and perpetuates such violence, leading sometimes to self-censorship. That results in the blocking of the free flow of information in society and in constraints on press freedom. The importance the world body attaches to press freedom can be seen from its view that threats to it will have a direct bearing on peace and security in the whole world and achievement of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. That is why it wants to hold to account all those who put journalists at risk and those who do nothing to stop the violence. The words are very relevant for India which has a low ranking in press freedom and the safety of journalists.

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