September 28, 2021. Unidentified individuals on a bicycle shoot Manuel González Reyes, director of the social media portal Agencia PM Noticias, in the state of Morelos, Mexico. A new murder, another one, in the most violent country in the Western Hemisphere to practice journalism.
Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, 2021 Nobel Peace Laureates
Just ten days later, the Nobel Peace Prize went to two journalists, Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, for their “courageous” fight to safeguard freedom of expression, considered a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said on Friday that Ressa and Muratov, from the Philippines and Russia, represent all journalists who defend this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face “increasingly adverse conditions. “.
It is the first time a journalist has received the Nobel Peace Prize since 1935. “The award comes at a time of unprecedented attacks on journalists in the form of extensive crackdowns, digital surveillance and an erosion of public confidence in journalism “, has celebrated the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who recalled that, in the Philippines and Russia, information professionals “have faced an avalanche of attacks in the last decade” and both countries have one of the highest rates of impunity in the murders of reporters in the world.
From murder to imprisonment
Many reporters continue to risk their lives on a day-to-day basis to do their job. So far in 2021, at least 18 journalists have died for a reason related to their work globally, according to the organization’s tally. The vast majority of them, 14, have been killed. Two of them are Spaniards David Beriain and Roberto Fraile, who lost their lives in April during an ambush in Burkina Faso while working on a documentary on poaching.
In 2020, the number compiled by CPJ of reporters killed in retaliation for their reporting more than doubled from the previous year.
Between the two years, CPJ has recorded the deaths of 50 journalists related to its work. These are only “confirmed” cases, that is, those in which there is certainty that the person was murdered in direct retaliation for his informative work; in combat or in crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment, for example while covering riots or clashes. Therefore, the total number may be higher, as the organization continues to investigate more cases to find out if they died in the course of their work.
The deadliest country to practice journalism in 2020 and so far in 2021, according to CPJ figures, is still Mexico. There, the Article 19 organization has documented that 142 communicators have been assassinated since 2000 in possible connection with their work.
Mexico is followed by Afghanistan, a particularly dangerous country where this year, for example, the photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, who worked for the Reuters agency, died. Seven journalists have died there in this period, five in 2020 and two so far in 2021. Next, according to CPJ data, are India, Syria and the Philippines.
In parallel, the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has confirmed the deaths of 24 journalists so far this year, led by Mexico and India, followed by Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Palestine.
If you look back, CPJ has detailed records on the murders of journalists since 1992. There are more than 1,400 confirmed deaths in these almost 30 years. Among them is, for example, that of Anna Politkovskaya, of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Directed and founded by Muratov, one of the two Nobel laureates. This week marks the 15th anniversary of the murder of the journalist, known for her coverage of Chechnya.
In addition to the deaths, at least 66 reporters have disappeared while doing their jobs to date, according to the list maintained by CPJ. Many of them are feared to have died. Here Mexico once again stands out above the rest, with 15 missing journalists.
However, cases of missing persons are extremely difficult to trace in conflict zones or areas under the control of armed groups, such as in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, where information is scarce, the situation is constantly changing and some cases are not reported. they denounce.
The threat to the exercise of information work goes beyond death or disappearance. In 2020, it was recorded a record number of jailed journalists worldwide. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that at least 274 reporters were imprisoned for their information work in December last year.
China was the country with the highest number of jailed journalists for the second year in a row, 47, according to CPJ’s tally. Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia followed. The figure rose significantly in Belarus and Ethiopia. Several of them are part of the organization’s latest list of most censored countries, led by Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan.
In the United States, there were no imprisoned journalists at the time the data was released, but an unprecedented number of 110 professionals were arrested or criminally prosecuted in 2020.
For its part, the Reporters Without Borders tally brings the number of journalists jailed to date to 350, with China also leading the way.
In its latest annual report on the situation of human rights in the world, Posted in April, Amnesty International reported that many governments attacked journalists in 2020 through intimidation and arbitrary detention. “In some countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, the authorities persecuted and even imprisoned journalists,” the document read. It also mentions acts of harassment and intimidation, threats, violence, and arbitrary detentions.
The NGO focused, for example, on the attacks suffered by journalists in Brazil or In Nicaragua, where the Observatory of Attacks on the Independent Press reported dozens of cases that included unfair prosecutions, arbitrary detentions and harassment of media professionals and their families. In El Salvador, reporters have been the victims of public statements that stigmatized them. In India, professionals were interrogated for alleged “anti-national” activities, while Egyptian and Iranian authorities detained or harassed journalists, the report said.
In several countries in Europe and Central Asia, says the specialized NGO, insufficient measures were taken to protect journalists and whistleblowers, who were sometimes subjected to harassment. Such was the case of Albania, Belarus, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine, among others.
“Being a journalist has never been so difficult”
Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, has described the Nobel Peace Prize for Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov as a “victory” for press freedom, the fight for justice, accountability and freedom of expression in all the world.
For his part, the general secretary of RSF, Christophe Deloire, considers that the award is an “extraordinary tribute to journalism and a call for mobilization, because this decade will be absolutely decisive for journalism.” “It is a powerful message at a time when democracies are being undermined by the spread of disinformation and hate speech.”
In an interview with Reuters in ManilaNobel laureate Ressa has called the award “a global recognition of the journalist’s role in repairing our broken world.”
“It has never been as difficult to be a journalist as it is today,” said the veteran journalist. “You don’t really know who you are until you are forced to fight for it.”