World Press Freedom Day: 15 journalists killed this year, says NGO

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul on October 2, 2018
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 Copyright  REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
Copyright  REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
By Alice Tidey
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"A free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights. No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information," the UN Secretary-General said on Friday.


At least 15 journalists have been killed worldwide since the beginning of the year, the International Federation of Journalists announced on Friday to mark World Press Freedom Day.

The awareness day was launched by the United Nations in 1991 and aims to shine a light on the importance of freedom of expression and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold this fundamental right.

This year's theme is "Media and Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video statement that "facts, not falsehood, should guide people as they choose their representatives", warned that "civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate" and deplored "violence and harassment against journalists".

"When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price," he added.

READ MORE: European reporters working in increasingly 'intense climate of fear'

95 killed in 2018

Ninety-five journalists lost their lives in 2018, 17 more than in the previous year, according to the NGO.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, another press freedom NGO, estimated in February that 251 journalists are behind bars for their work. Turkey was the biggest jailer for the third year in a row with 68 journalists behind bars while China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia imprisoned more journalists than they had the previous year.

The latest Press Freedom Index released last month by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also found that security for reporters is declining in almost every region of the world and that includes some European countries that would previously have been thought of as safe for journalists.

Austria drops on the Press Freedom Index

Austria dropped five rankings on the 2019 Press Freedom Index from 11 to 16 in the world, due to an increase in threats against journalists since the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) entered a coalition government in 2017. This included an attempt by the FPÖ-led interior ministry to limit police press communication with three newspapers critical of the party, according to RSF.

Timo Soini, the EU Council Chair of the Committee of Ministers, and Finnish foreign minister urged EU member states to ensure the safety of journalists.

"In recent years, in Europe, there has been an increase in threats and attacks on media. This is unacceptable," Soini said in a statement on Friday.

Still, European countries made up the entire top 20 of safest nations for journalists. Russia was deemed the region's worst coming out 149th on the list. RSF says the Kremlin uses arrests, arbitrary searches and draconian laws to keep the pressure on independent media and the internet.

On World Press Freedom Day, Euronews journalists have paid tribute to those killed and detained for exercising their profession in a video in the player above.

'Salute the courage'

Several events are taking place across the world on Friday to mark the day including a demonstration in Rome, Italy, and a UN symposium in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

RSF, which criticised Uganda on Thursday after 39 journalists were detained for covering the arrest of an opposition figure, announced today that it is to launch an All Party Parliamentary Group on Press Freedom in the UK to promote and defend press freedom both in the UK and globally.

France and Germany issued a joint statement in which they "salute the courage of these men and women and to fight against those who seek to silence their voices by force, threat or discredit."

"We will continue to promote the right of everyone to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights," they added.

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