One journalist is killed every four-and-a-half days on an average across the world. Local journalists are far more at risk than foreign journalists, accounting for 90 per cent of the victims. More than 10 times as many men are killed than women— 195 to 18 in 2014/15 — also television journalists have overtaken print hacks as the most vulnerable. These facts were revealed in a report by the Unesco Director-General, released as a tribute to journalists on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
In the report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), it was highlighted that during the last decade, 827 journalists were killed while on the job.
The report titled “Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity” said the worst hit areas were Arab states, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Latin America is the next worst affected region, it added.
The shocking addition of the report is that 2015 was the second deadliest after 2012. “In 2014-2015, 213 journalists met with a violent death. As many as 115 journalists were killed in 2015 alone, making it the second deadliest year over the last decade, after 2012 when the Unesco tallied 124 killings. 98 journalists were killed in 2014,” the report said.
It has been noted in the report that local journalists are far more at risk than foreign journalists, accounting for 90 per cent of the victims. However, the report noticed a huge spike in foreign journalist deaths in 2014 with 17 killed compared to an average of four in previous years.
It was found that a massive increase in killing of online journalists happened in the last year, in light of two dead in 2014 to 21 in 2015. Almost half of those were Syrian bloggers. The death of Bangladeshi bloggers made headlines, as in two past years around eight bloggers were killed by Islamic extremists.
The report also found that more than 10 times as many men are killed than women— 195 to 18 in 2014/15 — also television journalists have overtaken print hacks as the most vulnerable. The report noted that death is not the only harm journalists are exposed to, as the countless other violations endured by journalists include kidnappings, arbitrary detention, torture, intimidation and harassment, both offline and online, and seizure or destruction of material.
“Since 2006, the Director-General has cumulatively received information from 59 member states on 402 killings out of the 827 in the last decade. However, only 63 of these 402 cases have been reported as resolved, representing 16 per cent of the cases for which information was received and only 8 per cent of all killings registered by Unesco,” the report said.
It has also being highlighted in the report that since 92 per cent of the incidents where violence was used to muzzle free expression and deprive the public of its right to receive information went unpunished, criminals are encouraged to feel that they can get away with murder, literally.
According to the report, working as a journalist continues to remain unacceptably dangerous in all too many regions.
In India itself, a report titled ‘Dangerous pursuit: In India, journalists who cover corruption may pay with their lives’ by the Committee to Protect Journalists noted in a report that the country has witnessed work-related murder of 27 journalists since 1992 and expressed dismay at the inability of the state governments to secure a conviction in even one of them. It added that for the past eight years, India has been a fixture on its annual Impunity Index, which “spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free”.
In the foreword for this report, P. Sainath, an award-winning journalist and co-founder of the People’s Archive of Rural India, noted that “Rural and small-town journalists are at greater risk of being killed in retaliation for their work than those in the big cities but, as this report shows, factors such as a journalist’s location, outlet, level in the profession’s hierarchy, and social background add to that risk. The language a reporter writes in and, most importantly, what they are writing about –especially if it challenges the powerful – increase the vulnerability.”
The disturbing part for the protection of journalists comes in the statement by Geeta Seshu, the Mumbai-based consulting editor of media watch website The Hoot, who contributed to the research for the report, who said she could think of several cases where the police’s first line of response to a threat, attack, or killing of a journalist was to claim that the victim was not a journalist or that the attack was not work-related. “There is a deflection and that becomes the narrative then. That becomes the course of the investigation also.”
In the map of India’s deadliest states for journalists, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are demarked as the red zone. In the recent light and conditions, the mysterious death of investigative reporter Akshay Singh in July 2015, who was then working on the infamous Vyapam scam, an alleged $1 billion racket for providing jobs and college admissions in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, creates doubts on what will happen this time.
This makes us recall Vyapam scam and murder of Akshay Singh, an investigative journalist, because the state government remains the same in the hands of Shivraj Singh Chauhan-led-BJP, who was also in power during the 2015 scam.
It is to remind you that according to the reports, Akshay Singh, working with TV channel Aaj Tak, was investigating the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh when he died mysteriously. His death occurred on Saturday after he interviewed parents of Namrata Damor, the girl who had been found dead near railway tracks after her name figured in the infamous scam. Reportedly, after the interview, Singh waited to get some papers photocopied when he suddenly started frothing at the mouth. He was rushed to the hospital but doctors failed to revive him. According to the statement released by The India Today Group where he was employed, the cause of his sudden demise is not yet clear.
On October 31, eight alleged SIMI terrorists escaped from Bhopal central jail, and were killed in an “encounter” by the Madhya Pradesh police. The issue was picked up by media, and was religiously followed, which brought in three videos that were analysed and castrated by media, and created questions on the authenticity of the “encounter”. What happens this time to media’s castrations and analysis is awaited, while the government and opposition deal with the “encounter” reports.