November 2nd marked The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
Worldwide, journalists go after stories to seek truth for the public. Despite their strong contributions to our society, they face the threat of their own lives. It is not too rare when journalists are murdered while trying to reveal a truth, with the murderers getting away with it.
Even just last month, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist in critiques of his country’s rulers, was killed at the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia. His death is being investigated but his body has not yet been found.
Just last year, after facing innumerable threats and harassment, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist known for covering government corruption, was bombed to death while driving. Her killers have not been brought to justice.
The UN reported that for the past twelve years, around 1,010 journalists have been killed for bringing news to the public and 90% of those cases have been left unjustified.
Of the journalists killed last year, 19 percent were women journalists – a 12 percent increase from past averages. When covering issues such as sexual violence, women journalists are more in danger compared to men. With the #MeToo movements, there is even more of a threat for women when fighting against the wrongdoings of our society.
So what does this mean?
Journalists’ role in society is to investigate, seek and report the truth in our unjust societies, helping to bring about change and justice—often becoming the monitor of the dominant power and holding them accountable. This pressing threat to journalists and journalism means there are voices that go unheard and the truths are left in the darkness—while the ones who produce the harm are left to get away with it. With this becoming more and more common, we are letting our society become more hostile toward certain subjects. How can our society seek the truth when nobody is freely allowed to go after them? How can we question authority when everybody must be obedient? How can we bring about discussion on the social injustices that are actually happening in our every day lives?
This may not be just a threat for journalists. It may be the dawn of a threatening age for our freedom of speech. We all have voices. We all have a journalist within ourselves. If that freedom is taken away, if that voice is forced to keep silent, what would happen?
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed to the world that the current situation surrounding journalists is “outrageous and should not become the new normal.” He also pointed out that “The truth never dies. And neither must our commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression.”
This is not just a threat to journalism but a menacing situation for all. Our road to protect one of the most important and underlying rights may have just begun.