Special Report

Special Report: Addressing Escalating Risks Faced by Journalists

Freedom of the press is the backbone of any functioning democracy. It is through the tireless efforts of journalists that the public is informed, leaders are held accountable, and societal progress is made. However, in recent years, the risks faced by journalists have escalated to an alarming level. As the world becomes increasingly volatile, it is imperative that we address these threats head-on and ensure the safety and protection of those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth.

One of the most pronounced risks faced by journalists today is violence. From physical assaults to murder, journalists are often subjected to targeted attacks while simply doing their job. A report published by United Nations (UN) in celebration of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2, 2023, says that since 1993, more than 1,600 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. In the same vein, in nine out of ten cases, the killers go unpunished, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) observatory of killed journalists. These statistics are not only alarming but indicative of a broader problem that threatens the very essence of journalism (freedom of the press).

Moreover, journalists are also vulnerable to harassment and intimidation tactics. Threats, both online and offline, have become commonplace, making it increasingly difficult for journalists to carry out their work without fear of retribution. This relentless harassment not only compromises the well-being of journalists but also sabotages the integrity of their reporting. When journalists are prevented from freely pursuing stories, the public is deprived of vital information that is essential for a well-informed society.

Part of addressing these escalating risks involves holding those responsible for violence against journalists answerable. Governments must make it a duty to protect journalists and prosecute those who commit acts of violence against these professionals. More often than not, perpetrators are allowed to act with impunity, sending a message that such attacks are permissible. In order to suppress these acts, governments should ensure that there are legal mechanisms in place to investigate and prosecute these offenders, thereby sending a strong message that journalists are not indispensable and that attacks on them will be met with severe consequences.

Additionally, media organizations and civil society have a responsibility to support and protect journalists. Providing adequate training, resources, and legal support is essential for journalist safety. Journalists deserve access to safety courses, risk assessments, and secure communication tools to palliate the dangers they face. Another requisite is collaboration between media organizations, press freedom groups, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) which is paramount to combatting the escalating risks journalists confront daily.

Furthermore, societal attitudes towards journalists need to change. Too often, journalists are portrayed as enemies or purveyors of falsehoods, undermining the pivotal role they play in our democracy. It is essential to foster a culture of respect for journalists and the work they do. Educating the public about the importance of a free press and the risks faced by journalists can help build a society that values truth and protects those who seek it.

International solidarity is also crucial in addressing the risks faced by journalists around the world. Governments and international bodies/organizations need to come together to recognize and condemn attacks on journalists globally. Through diplomatic pressure, sanctions, and support for local initiatives, the international community can help create an environment where journalists can work free from fear.

It is pertinent to establish that the escalating risks faced by journalists pose a significant threat to the functioning of democracy. Violence, harassment, and intimidation tactics compromise the safety and integrity of journalists. Governments, media organizations, civil society, and the international community must all play a role in addressing these risks. We can create an environment where journalists are free to pursue truth without fear by holding perpetrators accountable, providing support and resources to journalists, changing societal attitudes, not forgetting fostering international solidarity. This is not only a matter of safeguarding the well-being of journalists but also protecting the cornerstone of democracy – freedom of the press.

Hope Ejairu

Hope Ejairu is a writer, sports analyst and journalist, with publications on print and digital media. He holds certifications in various media/journalism trainings, including AFP.

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