As threats of violence escalate globally, the safety of journalists is once again a prevalent issue with reporters across the globe abducted, attacked, harassed and even killed.
For many media workers such as Zimbabwean journalist Wendy Muperi, safety is not only a concern but a limit to those plying the trade. Though journalists exercise caution, they can never truly be safe.
“It’s limiting. You constantly have to mind both the story and your safety to make sure that you get the story and still be alive to tell it. But unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work. It’s a horrible reality that we have had to work in.”
According to The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), five reporters including a filmmaker, a producer and a Fox News cameraperson, were killed covering the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Several have gone missing or been detained.
Ukrainian producer and fixer Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, 24, and Fox News cameraperson Pierre Zakrzewski, 55, were both killed in Gorenka, outside Kyiv on March 1.
In Mexico, news director Armando Lopez was gunned down in the conflict-stricken state of Michoacán just six weeks after the murder of his colleague Roberto Toledo.
“He is the eighth Mexican journalist to be killed in 2022, compared with nine in the whole of last year,” The Guardian reported.
In Nigeria, several journalists have been targeted recently.That makes one tread with caution at all times, said investigative journalist Justina Asishana.
“It has affected the way I do my job. Some investigative reports I want to write […]are put on hold. It has hampered information gathering,” she said.
At the time of publishing, South Sudanese journalist Emmanuel Woja was seeking refuge away from his home after escaping from a group of unidentified kidnappers who abducted him on March 2.
“It’s not a new scenario for me. It’s something that I expected because of the system that we have in the country and because of the nature of the world that we work in. And how is it that we are expected to do what we do?” he said.
Burkinabè investigative journalist Sandrine Sawadogo said journalists face challenges self-censorship, verbal threats, online harassment and threats to cut off resources.
“These crimes are becoming more and more regular, despite calls for freedom of expression for journalists. Many of our colleagues are even being tried, imprisoned, and murdered in full view of the government and civil society without any major support,” she told frayintermedia.
“This guilty silence of the civil society and some human rights associations shows that there is an abandonment of the profession of investigative journalism and this means that the press is increasingly losing its status as the fourth estate,” she said.
In Burkina Faso journalists have continued to push against the government’s tightening vice on freedom of speech which has increased risk.
“The government in press releases “threatens” against the dissemination of “false information” on terrorist attacks. This can lead to self-censorship of the media. The government wants the media to relay press releases. This means that investigative journalists, if they want to work, they must take risks,” said Sawadogo.
Reflecting on the risk and consequential impact that threats have on journalists, Muperi said that they have turned to self-censorship.
“Because the stakes are high not just for me but for my family too. So it affects the type and depth of reportage. There’s a lot of toning it down or totally backing off,” she said.
The reality of the increasing risk means journalists need to continue to take safety precautions.
But experienced reporters have shared some tips on safety.
“I think being intentional about building professionally acceptable relationships with people in strategic places. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the most powerful ones in institutions, many times it’s the ones we’re likely to overlook who normally save the day,” Muperi said.
Sawadogo said she found that through thorough preparation for assignments and keeping colleagues in the loop, she’s managed to stay safe when working on high risk stories.
“Having a partner to whom you can report on the progress of the investigation, when you go to a meeting or when you go to the field, having a hard drive, an external USB key to protect your data,” she said.
“Sometimes you also need to have a sober and practical style so as not to attract attention, being trained on reporting during wartime, and having self-defence training.”
In 2021, over 27 journalists were killed with politics remaining the most dangerous beat, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
While African journalists face the most intimidation and harassment, India and Mexico topped the list of countries with the most media worker deaths according to In a recent CPJ report, India and Mexico top the list of countries with the most media worker deaths.