Most cases of crimes against journalists yet to be resolved: Unesco

Even though 2020 saw a “slight decrease” in the rate of impunity for crimes against journalists, 87 percent of such cases worldwide were still not resolved, according to Unesco, the UN agency tasked with defending press freedom, among other things.

According to The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, a report by the Director-General of Unesco on the occasion of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, only 13 percent of cases globally involving crimes against journalists were reportedly resolved, in comparison to 12 percent in 2019, and 11 percent in 2018, reports United Nations News.

The biennial report also said that in 2018-19, a total of 156 killings of journalists were recorded worldwide, and over the past decade, a journalist was killed – on average – every four days.

In 2018, 99 killings were recorded, while in 2019, 57 journalists were killed, the lowest death toll in the last 10 years.

As of the end of September, 39 journalists lost their lives in 2020, the report added.

‘A dangerous profession’

“Journalism remains a dangerous profession: the threats faced by journalists are many and wide-ranging,” the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in the report.

“While casualties related to countries experiencing armed conflict have declined, fatal attacks against journalists covering stories related to corruption, human rights violations, environmental crimes, trafficking, and political wrongdoing have risen in other countries.”

The report is submitted every two years to UNESCO’s Internationa Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) Intergovernmental Council, providing an occasion for UNESCO member States to take stock of global developments and discuss challenges linked to promoting the safety of journalists and combating impunity.

Attacks are gendered

The report also noted that gender factors play a role in violence against journalists: in 2018-2019, men continue to represent the majority of the victims of fatal attacks against journalists, 91 percent of the victims in 2019 and 93 per cent in 2018.

The higher number of male victims may be explained by the fact that there are fewer women journalists working in dangerous areas and, at least in some regions, fewer who are assigned to cover sensitive topics such as political corruption or organized crime. The gap can be partly explained by the existence of prevailing stereotypes which sometimes prevent women journalists from being sent on assignments in high-risk areas or covering certain beats, said Unesco.

While there are significantly fewer female journalists among the victims of fatal attacks, they are particularly targeted by offline and online gender-based attacks putting their safety at risk – these attacks can range from harassment, physical and sexual assault, trolling and obtaining and publishing private and identifiable information.

TV and local journalists most vulnerable

Like in previous years, television journalists constitute the largest group among the victims, according to the report.

Over 2018 and 2019, TV journalists constitute 30 percent of the journalists killed with 47 fatalities, followed by radio with 24 per cent, and print media with 21 percent of the killings.

Furthermore, as with previous years, majority of victims were local journalists covering local stories, with 95 local journalists killed in 2018 and 56 local journalists lost their lives in 2019, representing 96 per cent and 98 per cent of the fatalities for the two years, respectively.

Despite ‘slight drop’, impunity continues to prevail

While impunity for crimes against journalists still prevails, 2020 saw a “slight decrease” in the rate of impunity, said UNESCO.

Based on the information provided by the UN agency’s member States, the percentage of resolved cases worldwide was measured at 13 per cent in 2020, compared to 12 in 2019 and at 11 in 2018.

In 2020, compared to 2019, a higher number of States also provided responses to Unesco’s request for information on the status of judicial enquiries into the killings of journalists, with a reaction rate of 71 per cent.

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