Dangers journalists face amid struggling global press freedom

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Associated Press
In this Feb. 1, 2015, file photo, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post, was slain inside a Saudi diplomatic mission in Turkey. (Associated Press)

See also “World Press Freedom Index highlights global media challenges

WASHINGTON — The Newseum’s Journalists Memorial stretches high to the ceiling with the names and pictures of 2,323 journalists killed while reporting. The museum’s online database allows people to search the names and biographies of every journalist included in the memorial.

The violations of press freedom barometer, reported by Reporters Without Borders, showed that in 2018, 65 journalists, 13 citizen journalists and five media assistants were killed around the world; in 2019, it shows three journalists and one citizen journalist have been killed. Currently, 168 journalists, 150 citizen journalists and 16 media assistants are imprisoned.

Incidents such as the Capital Gazette shooting in June 2018, which killed five people, and the October 2018 murder of journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi have raised numerous concerns about the rights and safety of journalists.

Reporters Without Borders communications officer Noni Ghani said that unfortunately, “journalists are in danger now more than before.”

She called the Capital Gazette shooting “completely unprecedented in the United States,” but says, “the shooting did not happen in a vacuum — open hostility against journalists is on the rise in the U.S. and all over the globe.”

Ghani said some of the biggest dangers journalists face today include verbal and physical assaults, wrongful imprisonment, torture and murder. These threats exists in both democratic and authoritarian countries, though they are clearly more prevalent in authoritarian countries.

She also said the most concerning trend is democratic countries turning to autocratic tactics to silence or intimidate the media. However, she listed four ways Reporters Without Borders challenges threats to press freedom:

  1. Informing the national and global community about press freedom violations. Ghani said these violations often receive little to no attention in the media.
  2. Mobilizing public and government support, setting up support committees, and helping organize activities and campaigns that pressure governments to end press freedom violations.
  3. Providing journalists with the equipment and supplies needed to protect themselves in the field.
  4. Training journalists and news media organizations to counteract online censorship.

Additionally, Universidad del Desarrollo journalism professor Myriam Ruiz said in Khashoggi’s case there was enough international pressure surrounding the incident that more details about his death ultimately came out. Khashoggi was murdered in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

CNN reports although the CIA has concluded that Khashoggi’s death was personally ordered by Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he will not take strong action against Saudi Arabia or its crown prince.

Independent news organization Al Jazeera reported in February Saudi Arabia has admitted to the killing. Eleven people have been charged in the crime, yet Khashoggi’s body has not been found.

“I think it’s a matter of time for China or other countries. I think evil is going to find a way out,” Ruiz said.

Another press freedom video created with footage from my trip to D.C. this summer! Special thanks to Kathy Aiken and Alan Neves for their help with this!

Posted by Kaitlyn Bancroft on Thursday, December 13, 2018

Gene Policinski, Dana Floberg and Katie Townsend discuss press freedom. (Kaitlyn Bancroft, Kathy Aiken, Alan Neves)

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