The increase in the number of homicides during 2022 marks a reversal of the positive trend observed in recent years for the safety of journalists: from 99 homicides committed in 2018, the toll had fallen to an average of 58 homicides per year since 2019 to 2021, according to the Observatory ofUNESCO journalists killed.
“These figures are a reminder that the rule of law continues to break down around the world and testify to the failure of states to fulfill their obligations in terms of protecting journalists and preventing and prosecuting crimes against them,” says Education, Scientific of the United Nations. and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a press release.
While all regions have been affected, data from the UNESCO Observatory indicate Latin America and the Caribbean as the most dangerous regions for journalists in 2022, with 44 killings, more than half of the global total. 16 of these crimes were committed in the Asia-Pacific region, while 11 journalists were killed in Eastern Europe. The deadliest countries were Mexico, Ukraine and Haiti with 19, 10 and 9 homicides respectively.
Three-quarters of the killings took place outside conflict zones
While 23 journalists were killed in conflict zones in 2022, UNESCO notes that the large overall increase in the number of homicides occurred mainly in countries free of armed conflict. Their number has nearly doubled, from 35 cases in 2021 to 61 in 2022, and alone accounts for three-quarters of all homicides committed last year.
Journalists have been murdered for a variety of reasons, including retaliation for exposing organized crime, armed conflict, the rise of extremism, or for covering sensitive topics such as corruption, environmental crimes, abuse of power or the demonstrations.
Impunity remains very high
UNESCO regrets that, despite the progress made over the past five years, the impunity rate for murders of journalists remains particularly high (86%), which hampers the work of journalists and jeopardizes freedom of expression throughout the world.
“The authorities must redouble their efforts to put an end to these crimes and ensure that their perpetrators are convicted, because indifference is a major factor in this climate of violence,” said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO. UNESCO’s Global Trends in Freedom of Expression 2021/2022 Report highlights that in addition to homicides, journalists continue to face multiple forms of violence, such as kidnappings, arbitrary detention, legal harassment or digital violence, particularly against female journalists.
It also notes that laws against defamation, cyber-defamation and the dissemination of “false information” are sometimes used as a means to limit freedom of expression, creating a harmful environment for journalists.
UNESCO’s action in favor of the protection of journalists
UNESCO is the United Nations agency charged with ensuring freedom of expression and the safety of journalists around the world. It coordinates the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which marked its 10th anniversary at a global conference in Vienna, Austria, in 2022.
UNESCO condemns and monitors the judicial follow-up given to every murder of a journalist. It also trains journalists and justice actors, develops supportive laws and policies with governments, and raises global public awareness through events such as World Press Freedom Day (May 3) and International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists (November 2), celebrated annually.