The killing of journalists is one of the most extreme forms of media censorship, says the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

That is as the world commemorated the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI) on November 2 which aimed at drawing attention to the level of impunity for crimes against journalists.

According to UNESCO between 2006 and 2020 more than 1,200 journalists were killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public.

In nine out of ten cases the killers have gone unpunished.

During a roundtable discussion hosted by UNESCO in November Greek journalist Elena Kaniadakis said some of the most exposed reporters are freelance journalists and not those who are unionised or full-time.

“Trade unions are therefore very weak because mainly they want to protect journalists in terms of their jobs. And we know about privatization of jobs, which is typical of Greece as well as Italy. We know that the journalists dealing with the mafia are often freelance journalists,” she said.

“However, those of my generation who want to become journalists for a long time are often forced into being freelance journalists, so this is an issue that is becoming critical,” she added.

Threatening journalists is a mistake

frayintermedia CEO Veteran journalist Desmond Latham said journalists face increased attacks.

“Journalists naturally attract violence because our work includes visible external operations like covering riots and monitoring abuses by governments and other powerful players. We have always been regarded as a threat by those who generally have most to hide,” said Latham.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual Global Impunity Index, Somalia remains the world’s worst country for unsolved killings of journalists, 25 cases remain unsolved.

The annual index that spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and the perpetrators go free has revealed the worst regions where conflict, political instability and weak judicial mechanisms have perpetuated a cycle of violence against journalists.

Somali journalist Jamal Farah Adan was murdered in March of 2021 when two unidentified men shot and killed him. That killing was carried out by militant group Al-Shabaab who claimed responsibility and yet nothing was done about it, reports the CPJ.

Another unsolved death is that of Somali journalist Said Yusuf Ali who was attacked and stabbed to death on May 4, 2020. According to the journalist’s family an initial police report identified the killer and yet no credible investigation was opened and justice was not served.

Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) secretary general Farah Omar said that the violations against journalists is a critical issue.

“We call for the concerned government authorities to respond appropriately to end the impunity for crimes against the journalists,” he said.

African journalists in the firing line

In some African countries like South Sudan, which is in position four of CPJ’s 2021 Global Impunity Index, incidents of physical attacks, illegal arrests and detentions and persecution of journalists in 2021 have illustrated a pattern of this lack of accountability as it annually ranks high on CPJ’s annual index for two consecutive years as of late 2021.

The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) report recorded at least 11 killings of journalists in 2021 where journalists across the continent have been killed and their murderers have not faced any legal action.

Ethiopia, also in the eastern region of Africa has also recorded killings of journalists as the Tigray conflict has heightened the incidents of arrests and detention, including harassment of journalists reporting on the abuses of human rights related to conflicts in Ethiopia.

AFEX has reported that in the Democratic Republic of Congo,17 journalists have been killed over the last two years.

UNESCO’s message for the 2021 International Day to End Impunity has revealed that threats of violence and attacks against journalists has created a climate of fear for reporters which has impeded the free circulation of information and the public’s access to information.