Violence against journalists is reaching unprecedented levels

Being a journalist in 2016 is dangerous. According to UNESCO on an average week a journalist is killed and the attacks keep increasing.

Only this week the Agency has condemn the killing of Alvaro Alfredo Aceituno and Diego Salomon Esteban in Guatemala and Zamira Esther Bautista in Mexico.

In a statement, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO said, "Violent crimes must not be allowed to limit media workers’ freedom to carry out their work, which is important for society as a whole."

In a safety of journalist panel in NY,  Robert Mahoney, Deputy Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said, "Journalists are the people who run out when a bomb has gone off and pull out their cellphone, but they are also the people who dig through court records everyday trying to uncover corruption, and for that they are being murdered around the world."

According to the CPJ the majority of murdered journalists between 1992-2016 were covering politics(47%), wars (38%), and human rights issues (21%).

“These are the unsung heroes who everyday try to put into practice what we at the UN defend,” said Mahoney. But impunity for crimes against journalists is extremely common as over 95% of the cases lack justice.

More so, it is frequent for journalists to get arrested under charges of extremism and terrorism, for example while broadcasting dissent and protest. This might be happening due to the vague definitions of these terms.

Quinn McKew, Deputy Executive Director of Article 19, an international freedom of information and expression NGO, says governments have been using the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy resolution, which describes a terrorist act as activities aimed at "destabilizing legitimately constituted governments" to violate journalists freedom of speech.

Other factors that might increase violence against journalists are the rise of non-state groups and the digital era. They create new ways to track journalists and make it easier to find and kill them, said Judith Matloff, Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism to IPS.

Economic reasons have also affected journalists safety. The media industry has changed foreign bureaus to freelance journalists, which leaves them unprotected in the field.

Today, despite the increasing amount of information available, there is much knowledge left unknown. Journalists facing threats decide not to report on violence to save their lives. This is known to be happening in Mexico right now.

Self-censorship and the lack of government protection ruin freedom of speech and leave the people without the necessary and quality information for their lives.

McKew concluded, "Poor decisions are being made because poor information is available."  


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