On this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the world, including the media, faces an entirely new challenge: COVID-19.
The pandemic has highlighted new perils for journalists and media workers, even as the number of attacks on their physical safety has grown. There were at least 21 attacks on journalists covering protests in the first half of 2020 – equal to the number of such attacks in the whole of 2017. There have also been additional constraints on the work of journalists, including threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access and failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against them.
When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price. If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered. When journalists cannot do their jobs in safety, we lose an important defence against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online.
Fact-based news and analysis depend on the protection and safety of journalists conducting independent reporting, rooted in the fundamental tenet: “journalism without fear or favour”.
As the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, I reiterate my call for a free press that can play its essential role in peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights.