Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is today releasing its annual worldwide round-up of journalists who are detained, held hostage or missing.
The numbers are rising dramatically. A total of 348 journalists are currently detained worldwide – 6% more than were detained at this time last year. The number of detained professional journalists in Turkey has risen 22% after quadrupling in the wake of the failed coup d’état in July.
More than 100 journalists and media contributors are now in Turkish jails. RSF has been able to establish a direct link between the arrest and the victim’s journalistic activities in 41 of these cases. President Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism is being reflected in raids on media outlets that are designed to silence his critics.
Hundreds of Turkish journalist have been taken to court on charges of “insulting the president” or “terrorism.” Some have even been jailed without any charges brought against them. The number of cases of arbitrary imprisonment continues to rise.
Aside from Turkey, the three other biggest jailers of journalists are China, Iran and Egypt. They alone account for more than two-thirds of the world’s detained journalists.
“The persecution of journalists around the world is growing at a shocking rate,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “At the gateway to Europe, an all-out witch-hunt has jailed dozens of journalists and has turned Turkey into the world’s biggest prison for the media profession. In the space of a year, the Erdogan regime has crushed all media pluralism while the European Union has said virtually nothing.”
Meanwhile, a total of 52 journalists are currently held hostage. This year, all of them are in conflict zones in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, Syria and Iraq are among the most dangerous countries, with Islamic State alone holding 21 of these hostages.
In response to the ever-growing dangers for news and information providers, RSF is calling for the creation of the position of “Special Representative for the safety of journalists” directly attached to the office of the United Nations Secretary-General. The many UN resolutions on protecting journalists and combating impunity for crimes against them have yet to produce satisfactory results.
Media outlets, journalists, NGOs and prominent figures on every continent issued a joint appeal to the United Nations on 29 April for the creation of the position of “journalists’ protector” in line with RSF’s long-standing proposal for the appointment of a special representative of the UN secretary-general for the safety of journalists.
This coalition is urging the UN and its member states to give this position the political weight, capacity for rapid action and legitimacy to effectively coordinate UN efforts for the safety of journalists. The goal is to establish a concrete mechanism that enforces international law and thereby reduces the number of abuses and acts of violence against journalists throughout the world.
Until now, the many UN resolutions on protecting journalists and combating impunity have had no concrete results. The rights of millions of citizens to news and information are being sacrificed as a result of the failure to take effective action.
The world’s major problems, environmental issues and the fight against violent extremism cannot be addressed properly if journalists are not doing their job. The impunity enjoyed by those responsible for crimes of violence against journalists must be ended in order to create a safe environment for the media to operate