Journalist killings decline in 2021 but alarming threats remain

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Fifty-five journalists and media workers were killed around the world in 2021, according to UNESCO data, the lowest annual death toll in over a decade.

However, impunity for these crimes remains widespread and journalists still face a huge number of risks.

Once again in 2021, far too many journalists paid the ultimate price to bring truth to light. Right now, the world needs independent, factual information more than ever. We must do more to ensure that those who work tirelessly to provide this can do so without fear.

The UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists collected fifty-five journalist killings in 2021. Two-thirds of these took place in countries not experiencing armed conflict, showing the continued risks faced by journalists in their daily reporting to expose wrongdoing. This marks a complete reversal of the situation just a few years ago, in 2013, when two-thirds of killings took place in countries in conflict.

Two regions particularly affected 

The majority of deaths in 2021 took place in just two regions – the Asia-Pacific, with 23 killings, and Latin America and the Caribbean, with 14.

If the number of journalist killings is at its lowest in over a decade, impunity for these crimes remains alarmingly widespread: UNESCO’s data shows 87% of all journalist killings since 2006 are still unresolved.

Multiple forms of violence

Journalists worldwide also continue to be subject to high rates of imprisonment, physical attack, intimidation and harassment, including when covering protests. Women journalists especially face a shocking prevalence of harassment online – a report released by UNESCO in April showed nearly three quarters of surveyed women journalists had experienced online violence linked to their work.

UNESCO is the United Nations agency with a global mandate to ensure freedom of expression and the safety of journalists worldwide and coordinates the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which is marking its ten-year anniversary in 2022. 

The Organization systematically condemns every journalist killing and calls upon the authorities to conduct a full investigation, provides training for journalists and judicial actors, works with governments to develop supportive policies and laws, and raises global awareness through events such as World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on 3 May.


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