The United Nations (UN) has raised alarm over the lives of journalists across the world, lamenting that the killing of journalists worldwide significantly increased by 50 per cent in 2022 following a decline over the previous three years.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), in its 2021-2022 freedom of expression report, released on Tuesday said 86 journalists were killed in 2022, rising from 55 killings in 2021. The agency noted that the figure represented the killing of one journalist every four days.
The agency noted that the findings highlight the grave risks and vulnerabilities that journalists continue to face in the course of their work.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, had declared that “authorities must step up their efforts to stop these crimes and ensure their perpetrators are punished because indifference is a major factor in this climate of violence.” He described the findings as “alarming”.
The UNESCO noted that nearly half of the journalists killed were targeted while off duty. It stated that some were attacked while travelling, or in parking lots or other public places where they were not on assignment, while others were in their homes at the time of their killing.
The agency argued that this shows that “there are no safe spaces for journalists, even in their spare time”.
The agency protested that despite progress in the past five years, the rate of impunity for journalist killings remains “shockingly high” at 86 per cent.
It, therefore, asserted that combating impunity remains a pressing commitment on which international cooperation must be further mobilised.
The UN agency also noted that in addition to killing, journalists in 2022 also were victims of other forms of violence.
These, according to UNESCO, include enforced disappearance, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, legal harassment and digital violence, with women particularly being targeted.
The UNESCO report also pointed out challenges journalists are facing, stating that the weaponisation of defamation laws, cyber laws, and anti “fake news” legislation, are being used as a means of limiting freedom of speech and creating a toxic environment for journalists to operate in.
UNESCO found that Latin America and the Caribbean were the deadliest for journalists in 2022 with 44 killings, over half of all of those killed worldwide.
Worldwide, the deadliest individual countries were Mexico, with 19 killings, Ukraine with 10 and Haiti with nine. Asia and the Pacific registered 16 killings, while 11 were killed in Eastern Europe.
While the number of journalists killed in countries in conflict rose to 23 in 2022, compared with 20 the previous year, the global increase was primarily driven by killings in non-conflict countries.
This number almost doubled from 35 cases in 2021 to 61 in 2022, representing three-quarters of all killings last year.
Some of the reasons the journalists were killed ranged from reprisals for their reporting of organised crime and armed conflict to the rise of extremism.
Others were killed for covering sensitive issues such as corruption, environmental crime, abuse of power, and protests.