More than 70 journalists have been killed this year and a record number of media persons are incarcerated today while threats of imprisonment, violence and death against them keep growing, UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Monday and called on governments and the international community to take the necessary steps to protect them.
Guterres' remarks came ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2.
Threats of imprisonment, violence and death loom large
"A free press is vital to a functioning democracy, exposing wrongdoing, navigating the complex world and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals," the Secretary-General said.
"Yet, more than 70 journalists have been killed this year simply for fulfilling this role in society. Most of these crimes go unsolved. Meanwhile, a record number of journalists are incarcerated today, while threats of imprisonment, violence and death keep growing," he said.
A surge in disinformation, online bullying and hate speech, particularly against women journalists, is contributing to the stifling of media workers around the world, he said.
"Intimidation through the abuse of legal, financial and other means is undermining efforts to hold the powerful accountable. These trends threaten not only journalists, but society as a whole," he said.
United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists
The United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists aims to create a safe and free environment for all media workers.
"As we mark its tenth anniversary, I call on Governments and the international community to take the necessary steps to protect our journalists. We must end a common culture of impunity and enable journalists to do their essential work," Guterres said.
"On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, let us honour our media workers, and stand up for truth, justice and human rights for all," he added.
India’s worsening track record on protecting journalists
In 2022, India was ranked 150th among 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, or RSF.
In March 2022, airport authorities in Mumbai prevented Rana Ayyub, a prominent female Muslim journalist, from flying to London to address a journalism event. The Enforcement Directorate filed a charge sheet against her on October 12 under the anti-money laundering law, alleging that she utilised publicly raised funds of Rs 2.69 crore for herself and also contravened the foreign contribution law. Ayyub has denied the charges, saying it was yet another "desperate attempt" to target and intimidate her.
Siddique Kappan, another Muslim journalist, has been in prison since October 2020. A case being probed by the Enforcement Directorate against him is still pending. He was arrested while he was on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, where a Dalit woman had died after allegedly being raped.
Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who was arrested by Delhi Police for his 'objectionable tweets', walked out of jail after the Supreme Court granted him interim bail and ordered his immediate release in six cases registered against him.
(With inputs from PTI)