Eighty-six journalists and media workers were killed worldwide in 2022 – one every four days, according to UNESCO data. This highlights the serious risks that journalists still face in the exercise of their duties and their great vulnerability.
“After several consecutive years of decline, the sharp increase in the number of journalists killed in 2022 is alarming. The authorities must redouble their efforts to put an end to these crimes and ensure that the perpetrators are convicted, as indifference is a major factor in this climate of violence,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
The peak in murders in 2022 marks a reversal of the positive trend observed in recent years: from 99 murders in 2018, the number had fallen to an average of 58 murders per year from 2019 to 2021, according to the UNESCO Observatory of Journalists Killed. These figures are a reminder of the growing cracks in the rule of law around the world and the failure of states to meet their obligations to protect journalists and prevent and prosecute crimes against them.
While all regions were affected, Latin America and the Caribbean was the most dangerous region for journalists in 2022, with 44 murders, more than half of all those committed worldwide. Asia and the Pacific recorded 16 murders, while 11 journalists were killed in Eastern Europe.
The deadliest countries were Mexico, Ukraine and Haiti with 19, 10 and 9 murders respectively.
Half of the journalists were killed off the job
In about half of the cases, journalists were not killed while carrying out their duties: they were travelling, at home, in car parks or other public places when they were targeted. This is a continuation of a trend observed in recent years and implies that there is no safe place for journalists even in their free time.
The number of journalists killed in conflict countries rose to 23 in 2022 from 20 in the previous year, so the sharp overall increase in killings is mainly in non-conflict countries. This number has almost doubled from 35 cases in 2021 to 61 in 2022, representing three quarters of all murders committed last year.
These journalists have been killed for a variety of reasons, including reprisals for reporting on organised crime, armed conflict, the rise of extremism, or coverage of sensitive issues such as corruption, environmental crime, abuse of power or protests.
Impunity remains high
While progress has been made over the past five years, the impunity rate for murders of journalists remains particularly high (86%), which hinders the work of journalists and jeopardises freedom of expression worldwide. This proves that the fight against impunity remains an urgent commitment for which international cooperation must be further mobilised.
In addition to killings, journalists continue to be threatened by multiple forms of violence, such as abductions, arbitrary detentions, legal harassment or digital violence, in particular against women journalists.
The UNESCO report on global trends in freedom of expression 2021/2022 highlights these challenges. For example, laws against defamation, cyber-defamation and the dissemination of “false information” are sometimes used as a means to limit freedom of expression, creating a harmful environment for journalists.