In the past year alone, a confirmed 44 journalists were killed worldwide. In September, a female journalist from Bulgaria was found raped and murdered in Germany on October 6. Just this week, the suspicious disappearance of Washington Post Correspondent Jamal Kashoggi has left many wondering what the costs of reporting the truth are, and what further actions should be taken to ensure the safety of journalists.
The inhumane attacks and brutal murders of journalists is something that has been seen for all of history. This epidemic needs to be confronted quickly, as it is a direct violation of free press and a danger to those whose job entails reporting facts. International organizations must implement a better system than they currently have to ensure the safety of journalists.
This violent treatment towards journalists has been far too common for far too long. Since 1992, more than 1,300 journalists have been killed while carrying out the duties of their profession. Statistically, Iraq has claimed the lives of more journalists than any other country, with over 160 confirmed deaths of both local and and foreign journalists.
Countries which face political turmoil and unrest top the list of most dangerous countries for journalists, which suggests a trend. Amongst these are Russia, Turkey, Mexico and the Philippines.
The death of Kashoggi, for example, has reflected poorly upon the Saudi Arabian government. There is pressure from outside entities on how the government must deal with Kashoggi’s death.
“The fact that the authorities have proven they are incapable of solving most crimes against journalists, and are often the perpetrators of this violence themselves, then we can legitimately say that journalism is in a state of emergency in this country,” Azam Ahmed writes for the New York Times, quoting a senior Mexican enforcement official.
For the past decade, Mexico’s government has dealt with growing criticism towards the media. Though they have begun to provide security detail and other protections for journalists, the threat of violence often keeps reporters from expressing their true intentions within their published work.
In an entirely different part of the world almost a decade ago, a journalist was beaten and jailed by public officers. They attacked a reporter from Uganda, who used his role to report on protests of a political candidate.
There are countless stories like these, where governments in countries facing turmoil censor journalists by any means necessary, a direct infringement on their professional and human rights.
International peace organizations have implemented numerous laws and regulations in an attempt to protect the lives of journalists.
The United Nations issued an act in 2013 with the intention of providing protection for journalists on the basis of impunity. According to the act, it is meant to “condemn all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers.”
“Actions are structured around six axes: standard-setting and policy making; awareness-raising; monitoring and reporting; capacity building; academic research; and coalition building,” Unesco wrote on their website, after partnering with the UN’s impunity efforts.
In other words, Unesco’s efforts to protect journalists are purely symbolic. Aside from setting recommended steps countries should take to condemn perpetrators of violent crimes, they provide little aid to actually help the countries deal with the violent attacks.
Global policies have to comply with the laws and policies of many different countries. The United Nations, for example, gives individual countries the right to conduct their own investigations and decide punishment towards perpetrators of violent crimes.
Only ten percent of investigations towards the murders of journalists are properly concluded and lead to persecution. It is not enough for the United Nations to provide an outline of laws and regulations for nations on how to deal with these violent crimes.
More effort and resources must be put forth by the UN into finding the perpetrators of such crimes, and balance the scale of justice and basic human rights.
As tension currently rises between the United States and Saudi Arabia over finding truth and justice in Kashoggi’s death, it is a reminder that countries may require aid from an outside source to fulfill proper justice.
So long as nations continue to allow for journalists to be harmed for their profession, the very concept of free press and freedom of expression are threatened for all. The United Nations must go further than calling for the end of impunity, but rather take physical action in doing so.