Reporting from a war zone, and revealing political corruption is fundamental part of journalism and is key to any functioning democracy. This type of work has always been risky but Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that legal and constitutional mechanisms and initiatives, supposed to protect journalists, are failing.
Freedom of the press and freedom of information are enshrined in the constitutions of democracies all over the world yet the ability of journalists to carry out their work unhindered is under a renewed and growing threat.
The persecution of journalists around the world is growing at a shocking rate
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released a report detailing journalists worldwide who have been imprisoned, abducted or are missing.
The figures are cause for serious concern. The report states that at least 74 professional and non-professional journalists have been killed in connection with their work in 2016. Most were deliberately targeted because of their profession.
Euronews collaborated with RSF in May to highlight the issue with the following video:
Although this is fewer than in 2015, when 101 journalists were killed, the fall is not encouraging because it is largely due to journalists fleeing countries that have become too dangerous, leaving news and information black holes where impartial reporting is most needed.
The report separates “professional journalists” from “citizen journalists” and “media contributors” in order to make the data comparable with previous years though the contribution of non-professional journalists and the public is of increasing importance, especially in besieged and inaccessible areas of conflicts.
The report found that a total of 348 journalists are currently detained worldwide, 6% more than were detained at this time last year. The number of detained professional journalists in Turkey has risen 22% after quadrupling in the wake of the failed coup d’état in July.
RSF has so far been able to establish a direct link between the arrest and the victim’s journalistic work in 41 of these cases. They say that President Erdogan’s authoritarianism is “reflected in raids on media outlets, designed to silence his critics.”
Hundreds of Turkish journalists have been taken to court on charges of “insulting the president” or “terrorism” while others are being held without charge. The number of cases of arbitrary imprisonment is also rising.
“The persecution of journalists around the world is growing at a shocking rate,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. At the gateway to Europe, an all-out witch-hunt has jailed dozens of journalists and has turned Turkey into the world’s biggest prison for the media profession. In the space of a year, the Erdogan regime has crushed all media pluralism while the European Union has said virtually nothing.”
Other journalist-jailing nations include China, Iran and Egypt. They alone account for more than two thirds of the world’s detained journalists.
Meanwhile, a total of 52 journalists are currently being held hostage. This year, all of them are in conflict zones in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, Syria and Iraq are among the most dangerous countries, with Islamic State alone holding 21 of these hostages.
Reporters Without Borders is calling for decisive action. They propose creating the role of “Special Representative for the safety of journalists” and attaching it directly to the office of the United Nations Secretary-General. Various UN resolutions on protecting journalists and combating impunity for crimes against them have, they say, “yet to produce satisfactory results.”