UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has reiterated his call for a free press that can play its essential role in peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price,” he said adding that if they do not protect journalists, their ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered.
In a message, marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the UN chief said when journalists cannot do their jobs in safety, they lose an important defence against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online.
He said 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”.
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, Guterres said.
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, he said.