Eighty-six journalists and media workers were killed worldwide in 2022 – one every four days – up 50% from the year before, UNESCO data showed Monday.
UNESCO is mandated to ensure freedom of expression and the safety of journalists globally, and the UN agency said its data highlights the grave risks and vulnerabilities journalists face in their work.
The UNESCO toll was, however, lower than the journalists killed in 2022, according to the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign, which on Dec. 14 said 115 were killed last year, an increase of 45% compared to the previous year, the highest casualty count since 2018.
“After several years of consecutive declines, the steep rise in the number of journalists killed in 2022 is alarming,” Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director-general, said.
“Authorities must step up their efforts to stop these crimes and ensure their perpetrators are punished because indifference is a major factor in this climate of violence.”
The spike in killings in 2022 marks a dramatic reversal of a positive trend in recent years: from 99 killings in 2018, the number had dropped to an average of 58 killings a year from 2019-2021, the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists said.
The numbers highlight the growing fissures in rule of law systems worldwide, pointing to states’ failure to fulfill their obligations to protect journalists, and prevent and prosecute crimes against them, said UNESCO.
While every region was affected, Latin America and the Caribbean was the deadliest for journalists in 2022, with 44 killings, over half of the toll worldwide.
Asia and the Pacific registered 16 killings, while 11 were killed in Eastern Europe.
The deadliest individual countries were Mexico (19 killings), Ukraine (10), and Haiti (9).
Half of journalists killed off-duty
Around half of the journalists killed were off-duty when targeted – while traveling, in their homes, or in parking lots and other public places where they were not on assignment.
The tendency points to a trend in recent years and implies there are no safe spaces for journalists, even in their spare time.
While the number of journalists killed in conflict-bound countries rose to 23 in 2022, compared with 20 the previous year, the global increase was primarily driven by killings in non-conflict countries.
This number almost doubled from 35 cases in 2021 to 61 in 2022, representing three-quarters of all killings last year.
The journalists were killed for various reasons, including reprisals for reporting on organized crime, armed conflict, or the rise of extremism and covering sensitive subjects such as corruption, environmental crimes, abuse of power, and protests.
In addition to killings, journalists continue facing threats with multiple forms of violence ranging from enforced disappearance, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, legal harassment, and digital violence, particularly against women journalists, said UNESCO.
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