The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reported that 55 journalists and media professionals were killed in 2021, noting that impunity for such acts is widespread.
This is according to the latest UN data released on Thursday, about nine of 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 said.
“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 is at its lowest over the past decade, UNESCO stated that journalists face many dangers as they attempt to uncover stories and expose wrongdoings.
UNESCO reported that journalists continue to face high levels of imprisonment, physical assault, intimidation, and harassment, including when covering protests, and women journalists are particularly at risk, as they are subject to “a shocking prevalence of harassment online,” which cited data showing that nearly 75 per cent of media professionals surveyed experienced online violence related to their work.
According to the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists, two-thirds of victims in 2021 died in countries without armed conflict.
A complete reversal of the situation from 2013, when nearly two-thirds of deaths occurred in countries experiencing conflict, most deaths in 2021 occurred in just two regions, Asia-Pacific – 23 deaths – and Latin America and the Caribbean – 14 deaths.
On Wednesday, Azoulay condemned the murder of Myanmar journalist Sai Win Aung.
He was killed on December 25 in an artillery attack by the Myanmar armed forces as he was covering the plight of refugees in the southeastern state of Kayin, UNESCO said.
He is the second journalist to have died in December 2021 in Myanmar.
UNESCO is mandated to ensure freedom of expression and media safety worldwide. When a journalist or media professional is killed, the agency urges authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.