UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says 55 journalists and media professionals were killed in 2021, noting that impunity against journalists is alarmingly widespread.
Fifty-five journalists and media professionals were killed in 2021, according to the latest UN data released on Thursday, with nearly nine in 10 killings since 2006 still unresolved.
“Once again, in 2021, far too many journalists paid the ultimate price to bring truth to light,” UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay stated. “Right now, the world needs independent, factual information more than ever. We must do more to ensure that those who work tirelessly to provide this can do so without fear.”
Although the number of victims stands at its lowest for a decade, UNESCO underlined the many dangers that reporters face in trying to cover stories and expose wrongdoing.
In 2021, as in previous years, journalists faced high imprisonment rates, physical attacks, intimidation, and harassment, including when reporting on protests.
Women journalists continue to be particularly at risk as they are subjected to “a shocking prevalence of harassment online,” UNESCO added, citing data that showed that nearly three-quarters of female media professionals surveyed had experienced online violence linked to their work.
According to the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists, two-thirds of victims in 2021 died in countries with no armed conflict.
This marked a complete reversal of the situation in 2013 when two-thirds of killings occurred in countries experiencing conflict.
Most deaths in 2021 occurred in just two regions, Asia-Pacific – with 23 killings, and Latin America and the Caribbean – with 14.
On Wednesday, Azoulay condemned the killing of Myanmar journalist Sai Win Aung. Ms Aung – also known as A Sai K – died on December 25 while covering the plight of refugees in the southeastern state of Kayin.
During his assignment for the Federal News Journal, he was shot in an artillery attack by the Myanmar armed forces, UNESCO said, citing reports, making him the second journalist to be killed in Myanmar in December 2021.