A deadly time for journalists

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed an unprecedented number of journalists in recent weeks. Globally, impunity for crimes against journalists remain shockingly high.

On November 2nd we mark the annual International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The day serves as a yearly reminder that one of the biggest challenges to media freedom globally is the overwhelming lack of justice when it comes to prosecuting cases of killed journalists.

Regardless of which dataset and methodology you follow, the conclusion is that roughly eight out of ten cases of murdered journalists are never solved. This persistent lack of justice is not only a stain on every society and government who allows this inaction, it is also a message to perpetrators and journalists alike that journalists are low-risk targets. Furthermore, this knowledge weighs heavily on journalists as a form of indirect censorship. With the threat of violence being eminent and justice rarely served, it is no wonder that some reporters sometimes restrain their own work. Combined, the personal risk and lack of societal accountability are among the biggest threats to media freedom and democracy globally.

For this year’s commemoration, for good reason, most of the world’s attention is fixed on Gaza. The toll on journalists has already been unacceptably high with at least 33 journalists having lost their lives as a consequence of the war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. To journalists and media freedom organisations, the protection of journalists as civilians is sacrosanct and specifically written into the Geneva Conventions.

Tragically, the number of journalists killed so far is merely a reflection of the complete disregard for civilian life that permeates the ongoing war. However, not disregarding any civilian life lost, we must insist that every crime against journalists is thoroughly investigated, and the perpetrators brought to justice. That goes for Gaza as well as any other country where journalists face threats, intimidation and violence for simply doing their job.

Impunity for crimes against journalists is essentially a lack of recognition of the important societal role reporters play. Justice for journalists means justice for all citizens.