Media, also known as the fourth pillar of democracy have never been a safe career to pursue; but data revealed by UNESCO on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists shows that in past few decades, attacks on journalist have surged; making journalism more treacherous along with questioning the system’s security of right to information. On average, a journalist is killed on every fourth day and the most astounding fact is that of all the reported cases of crimes against journalists globally, only 13% is resolved.

But why is journalism becoming such a risky profession? Why are journalists attacked? And what can be done to ensure their safety?

Journalism all around the world

According to a report from World Press Freedom Index 2019, a survey done in 180 countries shows that only 8% of all are considered “good enough” for journalists. “If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered,” says Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General UNESCO.

Norway is the most secure and have free-speaking media followed by Finland, whereas North Korea falling back to being the worst country for free-media; in 2019 Turkmenistan was holding the last place. In 2018-19, 156 journalists were killed while reporting, globally. From the past decade’s cases of journalists murdered each year have been more than 90, with an exception of 2017 with 80 killings. Till September 2020, 39 journalists have lost their lives while reporting.

Source: UNSECO report (number of journalists killed worldwide 2006-2018)

Safety of Journalists and the Danger to Impunity is a report published by Director-General of UNESCO which says; only a very few percentages of the reported cases of misdeed against journalists are straightened out;13% in 2020, 12% in 2019 and 11% in 2018.

Where are the journalists most vulnerable?

“Journalism remains a dangerous profession: the threats faced by journalists are many and wide-ranging”; United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The threat to journalists reporting in Armed-conflict areas have seen some fall but on the other hand, journalists reporting about corruption, human rights violation, political crimes have increased; says the report.

Gender of the assassinated journalists also plays an important role. Most of the victim journalists are male with 91% of male fatalities in 2019 and 93% in 2018. Women journalists are not usually asked to go on life-threatening grounds like reporting an organized crime or ground reporting of conflicted areas; might be the only reason behind the low number of female fatalities.

Murder is not the only threat that the journalists face; kidnapping, deadly-attacks, imprisonment etc are the other that the reporters have to go through for just speaking the truth. Women journalists are often being targeted online by publishing private information and rape-threats.

Famous journalists being immensely accused and targeted online are found to be safer than those working at the local level. Majority of the victim journalist losing their lives while reporting was the local journalists while covering local wrongdoings. In 2018, 95 local journalists were murdered and in 2019, 56; that makes up 96% and 98% of the total deaths in the respective years.

Journalists covering protest

United Nations Cultural agency’s report revealed that in the first half of 2020, there have been more than 21 attacks on reporters covering protests around the world. In the reported 21 onslaughts, the journalists were either killed or were arrested by police or security forces.

From 2015 to mid-2020, no less than 10 journalists have lost their lives and more than 125 attacks or arrests; while covering protests in 65 countries. Most of the deaths happened while the reporting was done in Mexico, Northern Ireland, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.

Yaser Murtaja, one of the unfortunate photo-journalist of Ain Media agency; was shot in the stomach while filming the Great Return March Protest in the south of the Gaza Strip. Despite wearing a jacket with “PRESS” written, he was shot dead.

The UNESCO report says, “Hundreds of journalists around the world trying to cover protests have been harassed, beaten, intimidated, arrested, put under surveillance, abducted, and had their equipment damaged”. The majority of these attacks are done by security and police force.

Journalism without fear and favour

We are living in the most connected time of human history where every information just a few touches away. But a lot of misinformation and disinformation for spreading hatred amongst each other are being circulated all the time. Free-media in this crucial stage plays an important role in maintaining peace and justice.

COVID19 pandemic have shows us the importance of free-media, the one that shows the truth. Attack on journalists while reporting the truth is an attack on the free-voice; “Fact-based news and analysis depend on the protection and safety of journalists conducting independent reporting, rooted in the fundamental tenet: ‘journalism without fear or favour”.

Freedom to press is one of the most important parts of any nation, a crime against journalists is a crime against right to information, and the when journalists are not safe reporting the truth that means the pillar of democracy has started to fall.