press freedom - UN

UN chief warns impunity for crimes against journalists on the rise

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres says crimes against journalists are on the rise.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres says crimes against journalists are on the rise. ©REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

United Nation Secretary General has warned of a rise in the scale and number of attacks against media workers in recent years, on the International Day to End Impunity against Journalists. Antonio Guterres urged the world to “stand up together for journalists, for truth and for justice”.


The UN General Assembly designated 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity against Journalists after RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were abducted and killed on that date in 2013 in northern Mali.

The circumstances surrounding their death remain unclear and none of the alleged perpetrators have been arrested.

“When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price,” said Guterres. “Without the ability to protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and contribute to decision-making, is severely hampered.”

According to official statistics more than 1,000 journalists have been killed worldwide in the world in the past 12 years. Not just in warzones, but also at their homes, including in peaceful western countries.

In 2018, 94 journalists and media workers were killed while doing their jobs, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

Forty-four have died so far this year, with crimes going unpunished in nine out of 10 cases.

Rise in crimes against women

Guterres said there had been a recent rise in the number of women journalists among fatalities in recent years, along with an increase in gender-based violence, such as sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, highlighted the case of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, assassinated on 16 October 2016 by a car bomb.

Caruana Galizia was one of the most prominent journalists in her country, having made her name investigating high-profile corruption, including with the Panama Papers.

RSF qualified her murder as “previously unthinkable in an EU state”.

October also marked one year since the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Riyad’s consulate in Istanbul.

“A shocking state crime,” said RSF. “Thirteen months later, the journalist’s dismembered body has yet to be found, those who instigated his murder have yet to be put on trial, and the Saudi regime continues to persecute journalists with exceptional ferocity.”


UNESCO this year launched the #KeepTruthAlive campaign on social media to highlight the dangers faced by journalists close to their homes. Some 93% of journalists killed in 2019 were local workers.

As part of the campaign, Unesco created an interactive map which gives an idea of the scale of dangers faced by the world's media workers.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning