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05 November 2020

Media Freedom Coalition Calls On Nations To Protect Journalists

The Media Freedom Coalition has called on all countries across the world to protect the rights and safety of journalists whose ability to work freely is "fundamental to a functioning democracy."

The statement was released on Monday (2 November), the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, highlighting global death rates of journalists and the prosecution of journalists and other media workers as “the current obstacles to achieving a free media globally."

The MFC describes unrepressed journalism “as a key element of freedom of opinion and expression, both online and offline. On this day, we pay tribute to those journalists who have been threatened, subjected to violence or killed in their line of work, including female journalists, who remain disproportionately targeted.

“Yet the ability of journalists to work freely is fundamental to a functioning democracy. It allows access to reliable information and counters disinformation, misinformation, and other forms of manipulation of information.

“We call upon all states to advocate for a free, independent, plural and diverse media; to condemn actions that might jeopardize the safety and independence of journalists and media workers; and to hold to account those who seek to harm journalists or restrict their ability to work.”

The MFC also says that the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified abuse towards journalists across the world. It adds: “This climate of impunity perpetuates the cycle of violence against journalists and the media.”

The pandemic has led to many laws being devised to counter disinformation, causing harm to media freedom. There have been over 400 media-freedom violations globally as of September 2020, according to the International Press Institute.

UNESCO also reports that 99 journalists and media workers were killed in 2018 and in 2019 Reporters Without Borders reported a total of 49 journalists killed, 389 in prison and 57 being held hostage.

The Coalition For Women In Journalism has also reported over 540 threats against female journalists in 2020 so far.

In September-October 2020, the Foreign Policy Centre conducted a global survey of 63 investigative journalists from 41 countries. The survey found that 81 per cent of respondents had been subject to verbal threats, with 79 per cent being trolled on social media and 70 per cent receiving written threats.

More than 50 per cent of respondents also reported experiences of civil legal cases, surveillance both on and offline, and interrogation by authorities and smear campaigns. 73 per cent experienced written legal threats as a result of information they had published, with the UK being the most frequent country of origin for legal threats, other than the journalists’ home countries.