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Threats against journalists still rising globally

By United Nations | November 2nd 2021

Photographers cover Deputy President William Ruto's political rally in Nyamira County on November 1, 2021. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Ending impunity for crimes against journalists is one of the most pressing issues in guaranteeing freedom of expression and access to information for all citizens.

Between 2006 and 2020, more than 1,200 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public.

And in nine out of 10 cases the killers go unpunished, according to data compiled by Unesco.

Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and judicial systems

While killings are the most extreme form of media censorship, journalists are also subjected to countless threats – ranging from kidnapping, torture and other physical attacks to harassment, particularly in the digital sphere.

Threats of violence and attacks against journalists, in particular, create a climate of fear for media professionals, impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas for all citizens.

Women journalists are particularly impacted by threats and attacks, notably by those made online.

According to Unesco’s discussion paper, The Chilling: Global Trends in Online Violence against Women Journalists, 73 per cent of the women journalists surveyed said they had been threatened, intimidated and insulted online in connection with their work.

In many cases, threats of violence and attacks against journalists are not properly investigated. This impunity emboldens the perpetrators of the crimes and at the same time has a chilling effect on society, including journalists themselves.

Impunity damages whole societies by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption and crime.

On the other hand, justice systems that vigorously investigate all threats of violence send a powerful message that society will not tolerate attacks against the right to freedom of expression for all.

The 2021 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists highlights the instrumental role of prosecutorial services in investigating and prosecuting not only killings but also threats of violence against journalists.

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