The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has released its annual report that shows 45 journalists and media workers were killed in 2021 in 20 countries, a drop from 65 killings recorded in the year 2020.
The report presented on February 9, 2022, shows that the 2021 figure represent the lowest death toll since the group began publishing annual reports on journalists’ killings in 1990 and brings the total to 2,725 journalists and media workers who lost their lives to violence in the world since then. The year 2021 registered 20 fewer killings than in the previous year (65).
The Asia Pacific region topped the list of regional killings with 20 killings, the Americas region followed with 10 killings, the Africa region occupied 3rd position with 8 killings while Europe, Middle East and Arab region occupied 4th and 5th position with 6 and 1 killings respectively.
There was also a deadly accident, which claimed the lives of two journalists in Iran. The report says despite this decrease, 2021 was also a year in which threats against journalists and media freedom witnessed a significant increase. The IFJ said it registered a record number of journalists in detention, with 365 of them thrown behind bars because of their reporting, a considerable increase from 235 recorded in 2020. This onslaught on press freedom has had a chilling effect on media.
For simply covering protests or trying to report on the coronavirus crisis, both of which are issues of significant public interest, journalists have been arrested and accused of wrongdoing.
IFJ said in 2021, it also discovered a threat to press freedom in the form of Pegasus, the spying software for surveillance through mobile telephones which was used to target journalists among others. With its ability to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, access contacts and emails without raising a single suspicion from the owner, Pegasus, IFJ noted, has shattered the safety of most handheld devices and as a result, the confidentiality of sources and the privacy of personal communications of journalists can no longer be taken for granted.
The report also said at least seven women journalists were killed in the course of their work around the world with Afghanistan paying the highest price. The IFJ Gender Council is particularly concerned about the situation of Afghan women journalists and believes that efforts must be redoubled to protect their lives and those of their families and urged international action to address the critical situation of Afghan women journalists, who are particularly targeted by the Taliban.
The IFJ also condemned the online harassment of women journalists around the world and called on newsrooms, online platforms and governments to take action to put in place sustainable solutions to eradicate this scourge.