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Impunity for crimes against journalists prevails, report shows

The U.N. agency, UNESCO, tasked with defending press freedom, reported Tuesday that 87% of inquiries into killings of journalists worldwide since 2006 remain unresolved. Photo by Sylvain Liechti/United Nations
The U.N. agency, UNESCO, tasked with defending press freedom, reported Tuesday that 87% of inquiries into killings of journalists worldwide since 2006 remain unresolved. Photo by Sylvain Liechti/United Nations

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- A report published on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists shows such crimes prevail despite a "slight decrease" in 2020.

Over the past 14 years, 1,167 journalists have been killed, and about nine out of 10 cases have gone unpunished, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization figures. Those figures do not include journalists who suffer from non-fatal attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, intimidation, harassment and the risks faced by female journalists, including sexual attacks.

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In 2020, the percentage of resolved cases worldwide was 13%, a "slight decrease" in the rate of impunity compared with 12% in 2019 and 11% in 2018, the UNESCO Director-General's Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity said.

Still, impunity prevails with 87 percent of inquiries into 1,167 cases of journalists being killed since 2006 unresolved, according to the report.

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"If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered," U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. "When journalists cannot do their jobs in safety, we lose an important defense against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online."

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In 2018 and 2019, television journalists made up the largest group of journalists killed and most of them were covering local stories as has also been the case in previous years, according to the report.

Among other key findings of the report, in the past decade, a journalist has been killed on average every four days. Last year was the lowest death toll recorded by UNESCO at 57 deaths. In 2019, the highest number of fatal attacks occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean region, representing 40% of total killings worldwide, followed by the Asia and Pacific region with 26% of killings.

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Most journalists were killed in countries with no armed conflict, according to the UNESCO data.

"Journalism remains a dangerous profession: the threats faced by journalists are many and wide-ranging," UNESCO said in a brochure for the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists including report highlights. "While casualties related to countries experiencing armed conflict have declined, fatal attacks against journalists covering stories related to corruption, human rights violations, environmental crimes, trafficking, and political wrongdoing have risen in other countries."

First published in 2008, the report, published every two years since then, responds to a call from the 39 Member States in UNESCO's International Program for the Development of Communication.

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The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2013 to proclaim Nov. 2 as the "International Day to End Impunity Crimes against Journalists." The resolution urged Member States to implement concrete measures to counter the present culture of impunity. The date was chosen in honor of two French journalists in Mali who were assassinated on Nov. 2, 2013.

"Journalists are essential in preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,' UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement. "When journalists are attacked with impunity, there is a breakdown in security and judicial systems for all."

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