In the recently released 2021-2022 freedom of expression report, UNESCO noted the deaths of 86 journalists last year, amounting to one every four days, up from 55 killings in 2021.
The findings highlight the grave risks and vulnerabilities that journalists continue to face in the course of their work, the agency said.
“Authorities must step up their efforts to stop these crimes and ensure their perpetrators are punished because indifference is a major factor in this climate of violence,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, describing the findings as “alarming”.
No safe spaces
UNESCO noted that nearly half of the journalists killed were targeted while off duty; some were attacked while travelling, or in parking lots or other public places where they were not on assignment, while others were in their homes at the time of their killing.
The report warned that this implies that “there are no safe spaces for journalists, even in their spare time”.
Despite progress in the past five years, the rate of impunity for journalist killings remains “shockingly high” at 86 per cent. Combating impunity remains a pressing commitment on which international cooperation must be further mobilized, the organization said.
In addition to killing, journalists in 2022 also were victims of other forms of violence. This included enforced disappearance, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, legal harassment and digital violence, with women particularly being targeted.
The UNESCO study highlighted challenges for journalists, pointing out that the weaponization of defamation laws, cyber laws, and anti “fake news” legislation, are being used as a means of limiting freedom of speech and creating a toxic environment for journalists to operate in.
Mexico deadliest country for journalists
UNESCO found that Latin America and the Caribbean were the deadliest for journalists in 2022 with 44 killings, over half of all of those killed worldwide.
Worldwide, the deadliest individual countries were Mexico, with 19 killings, Ukraine with 10 and Haiti with nine. Asia and the Pacific registered 16 killings, while 11 were killed in Eastern Europe.
While the number of journalists killed in countries in conflict rose to 23 in 2022, compared with 20 the previous year, the global increase was primarily driven by killings in non-conflict countries. This number almost doubled from 35 cases in 2021 to 61 in 2022, representing three-quarters of all killings last year.
Some of the reasons why the journalists were killed were due to reprisals for their reporting on organized crime, armed conflict or the rise of extremism. Others were killed for covering sensitive topics such as corruption, environmental crime, abuse of power and protests.