DispatchPress Freedom News

Journalists under threat

By December 3, 2023 December 6th, 2023 No Comments


A reporter’s microphone at a press conference, through barbed wire. 3d rendering

Since Reporters Without Borders published their annual World Press Freedom Index on World Press Freedom Day May 3, the sorry state of press freedom and the ability of journalists to do their jobs safely has deteriorated even further.

The report in May showed the journalism environment in 128 countries was problematic or dangerous for media workers. And in the last two months with the Israel-Hamas war and increased tensions in other regions, those numbers show a worsening of the journalism environment.

Earlier this month, on Nov. 4 the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), reported that at least 36 journalists and people who work in the media had been killed in the Israel-Hamas war nearly one month into the conflict.

In late October, Reuters and Agence France Press (AFP), sought assurances from the Israeli government and Israel Defence Forces (IDF), that journalists would not be targeted as the IDF went after Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Under these circumstances, we cannot guarantee your employees’ safety and strongly urge you to take all necessary measures for their safety,“ the IDF responded.

World Press Freedom Canada has urged all parties to the Israel-Hamas conflict to refrain from targeting media, while urging employers to ensure journalists working in conflict zones have proper training and equipment.

However, not all threats come from governments.

In the Philippines, considered to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, a news broadcaster was shot in his home where the radio station was based while broadcasting live on Nov. 5.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr condemned the attack saying, “attack(s) on journalists will not be tolerated in our democracy and those who threaten the freedom of the press will face the full consequences of their actions. Journalists on the ground report there is still a culture of fear,  and they remain in danger.

As journalists face increasing attacks and restrictions on their ability to do their jobs, democracy and fact-based journalism are also threatened.  With widespread  newsroom closures and cuts to newsroom staff and resources, questions are being raised about what needs to be done to protect the press and safeguard journalists to report the news.

Currently, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York is undertaking a project to study the role of a free press in a democracy and how to protect it.  Those findings will be released next May during a two-day symposium.

In the meantime, conditions are expected to worsen for media covering conflicts such as the one in the Middle East, and for press freedom generally.