The UN experts Tuesday said nine out of 10 killings of journalists continue to go unpunished.
In a joint statement on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the UN expert on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan; the special rapporteur on the extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz; and expert on violence against women, Reem Alsalem, called on countries to investigate violence against journalists and prosecute the perpetrators.
“The safety of journalists remains as precarious as ever, impunity for crimes against them as high and persistent as before,” they said.
“Over the past year, around the world, journalists have been threatened, harassed, attacked physically, abducted, arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured and killed – simply for doing their job.”
Threats to the safety of journalists, far from abating, have taken new forms in the digital age, especially for women journalists.
While both male and female journalists are threatened while doing their work, women, including those from minority groups, are at much higher risk of sexual attacks and online gender-based violence, including online harassment, trolling, doxing, rape, and death threats, they added.
“The failure to investigate and address attacks online has real-life consequences for women journalists, affecting their mental and physical health,” they said.
According to the statement, such failures undermined their confidence and autonomy, stigmatizing them and generating fear, shame, and reputational and professional damage.
“In extreme cases, online threats can escalate to physical violence and even murder, as the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia,” who fought corruption in Malta, showed, the experts said.
“Attacks on journalists are an assault on society’s right to be informed, on the right to freedom of expression as well as many other human rights, including the right to life and liberty of the individuals concerned,” the experts said.
“That the needle has not shifted over the past decade is a clear indication that national and international measures for protecting the safety of journalists are failing. Much more needs to be done.”
Last year, according to UNESCO, 62 journalists around the world were killed just for doing their jobs, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an earlier statement.
“Many lost their lives while covering the conflict. But in recent years, the number of media workers killed outside conflict zones has risen,” said Guterres.
“In many countries, simply investigating corruption, trafficking, human rights violations or environmental issues puts journalists’ lives at risk.”