BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — A new report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has described Latin America and the Caribbean as the deadliest part of the world for journalists last year.
In its Observatory of Killed Journalists database released on Monday, UNESCO said that 22 journalists were reported killed in the Latin America and Caribbean region in 2019, followed by 15 in Asia-Pacific, and 10 in Arab States.
The database shows that the Caribbean journalists killed were from Haiti. It said Néhémie Joseph and Rospide Pétion were murdered on October 10 and June 10, last year and that in both cases, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay called on the authorities to investigate the killings.
“I condemn the murder of Néhémie Joseph. I urge authorities to spare no effort in investigating this crime and ensuring that all those involved are brought to trial.
Journalists and the media bring an indispensable contribution to democracy and governments must prioritise their safety.”
The dead body of Joseph, a radio reporter and presenter for Mirebalais-based Panic FM and Port-au-Prince radio station Méga, was found in the trunk of his car after his shooting by unknown assailants.
The journalist had recently said on social media that he had received threats regarding his reporting on the authorities’ handling of the political crisis affecting the country.
In the case of Pétion, the UNESCO director-general said “investigating cases of violence against journalists and bringing their perpetrators to trial is indispensable for the defence of freedom of expression and of the press”.
Pétion, a journalist for Radio Sin Fin, was killed in Port-au Prince, the Haitian capital, as he was driving home from work in a company vehicle.
“UNESCO promotes the safety of journalists through global awareness-raising, capacity building and a range of actions, notably in the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.”
The figures from the Observatory of Killed Journalists database show that, over the last decade, 894 journalists were murdered — an average of almost 90 per year.
It noted that journalist killings in 2019 dropped by almost half compared to 2018 — from 99 to 56 — but members of the press still face extreme risks in all regions of the world.
The UNESCO data shows that targeting local affairs, such as politics, corruption and crime, is more dangerous for journalists than covering war zones.
Last year, almost two-thirds of cases occurred in countries not experiencing armed conflict, and the vast majority involved reporters covering their local patch, UNESCO noted.
Aside from the risk of murder, journalists increasingly experience verbal and physical attacks in connection with their work.
Over recent years, there has been a marked rise in imprisonment, kidnapping and physical violence amid widespread rhetoric hostile to the media and journalists.
Women in the media are particular targets, says UNESCO, noting they are often targets of online harassment, and face threats of gender-based violence.
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