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There were at least 21 attacks on journalists covering protests around the world in the first half of 2020, the same number of attacks recorded in the whole of 2017, the United Nations Secretary General said on Tuesday.
UN secretary general António Guterres made the announcement during the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, celebrated every year on 2 November “to raise awareness and highlight some of the specific risks that journalists face in their quest to uncover the truth.”
“If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered,” said Guterres.
He noted that when journalists were hindered from doing their work, the world is left with an information vacuum.
The 71-year-old highlighted the importance of ensuring journalists do their work safely especially as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We lose an important defense against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online,” he said.
“Fact-based news and analysis depend on the protection and safety of journalists conducting independent reporting, rooted in the fundamental tenet: ‘journalism without fear or favour”, he concluded.
On her part, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), noted that for many journalists, “telling the truth comes at a price”.
She revealed that between 2010 and 2019, close to 900 journalists were killed while doing their job, with more than 150 killings recorded in the last two years alone.
According to Azoulay, “states have an obligation to protect journalists”, adding that judges and prosecutors must promote “swift and effective criminal proceedings” to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against them are held accountable.