Impunity to killers of journalists in India finds mention in UNESCO report

There have been 39 killings since 2006, 22 since 2014, with not a single case resolved

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
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Gyan Pathak/IPA

Safety of journalists and the danger of impunity for crime against journalists has been highlighted in the UNESCO’s Director Generals report that mentions 39 killings of journalists in India since 2006; 22 of them occurred since 2014, no case was resolved, and no information was sent to them regarding the ‘status of judicial enquiries on the killing of journalists’ on their request to the Government of India. Globally, 13 per cent of cases involving crimes against journalists were reported “as resolved” in comparison to 12 per cent in 2019 and 11 per cent in 2018. India’s dismal performance on safety of journalists is obvious.

“Journalism remains a dangerous profession: the threats faced by journalists are many and wide-ranging,” the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in this biennial report, coinciding with the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2. The report is submitted every two years to UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) Intergovernmental Council, providing an occasion for UNESCO member States to take stock of global developments and discuss challenges linked to promoting the safety of journalists and combating impunity. It must also be noted that impunity to the perpetrators of crime against journalists is violation of human rights, and India has an international obligation in this regard.

The report said that investigation is going on only two cases of killing of journalists in India in 2006. Prahlad Goala of Asomiya Khabar was killed on January 6 and Arun Narayan Dekate of Tarun Bharat was killed on June 6. No information was received by UNESCO on killings of 37 other journalists between 2006 and 2019.

India is among the 24 countries where killing occurred in 2018. With six killings it ranked sixth in the world giving India the sixth most dangerous countries for journalism in the world, after Afghanistan, Mexico, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. However, in 2019, no killing from India is mentioned in the report. It does not mention even the killing of Katha Satyanaraya of Andhra Jyothy who was killed on October 15, 2019, though it finds mention in Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ’s report).

CPJ’s report also mentions murder of Shubham Mani Tripathy of Kampu Mail who was murdered on June 19, 2020. It shows that crime against journalists in India continues even after 2018. The UNESCO report mentions six murders of journalists in India in 2015, five in 2016, five in 2017, and six in 2018.

For journalism and journalists, most dangerous regions of the world in 2019 were Latin America and the Caribbean with 40 per cent of killings, followed by Asia and the Pacific with 26 per cent, and the Arab States with 18 per cent. In 2018, Asia and the Pacific was most dangerous with 32 per cent of killings, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean with 26 per cent, and Arab States with 20 per cent. The report shows that Asia and the Latin America remain the most dangerous regions for journalism and journalists.

In Asia, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the most dangerous countries for journalists. In 2019, Afghanistan and Pakistan were the third most dangerous countries with killing of 5 journalists each. Mexico was at worst with 12 killings and Syria was second worst countries of the world with 6 killings. However, in 2018, Afghanistan with killing of 16 journalists was worst, while Mexico with 13 killings was second worst, and Syria with 9 killings was third worst country of the world.

Among the 156 journalists killed globally in 2018-2019, just over half (79 or 51 per cent) were killed while on duty. The remaining 77(49 per cent) were killed outside their immediate work context, often in or in front of their homes, or while driving. A total of 13 journalists were killed in 2018, and 10 in 2019 while they were covering armed conflicts. Twenty journalists were killed in terror attacks in 2018, and 4 in 2019.

Seven journalists were killed at their offices in 2018, and 6 in 2019. Twenty journalists were killed during specific assignments in 2018, which includes one Achyutanand Sahu of Doordarshan in India after being sent by his media outlet to cover state assembly elections, who was killed in crossfire on October 31. Three journalists were killed while covering protest or riots in 2018 and 2019 each. Most objectionable was the death of 2 journalists in detention.

In 2018-2019 men continue to represent the majority of the victims of fatal attacks against journalists, representing 91 per cent of the victims in 2019 and 93 per cent in 2018. Killings of women journalists in 2018-2019 occurred in all regions except in the Arab States. In the two-year period, 5 were killed in Latin America and the Caribbean, 3 in Western Europe and North America, 2 in Asia and the Pacific, 1 in Africa and 1 in Central and Eastern Europe.

The majority of the killings of women journalists in the 2018-2019 period occurred in countries where there is currently no armed conflict. Among the 12 women journalists and media workers killed over the 2018-2019 period, 5 were murdered in or in front of their homes, 2 died as a result of terrorist attacks, 2 died during a mass shooting in their office, 1 while covering riots, and 2 were found dead in a street. While there are significantly fewer women journalists among the victims of fatal attacks, they are particularly targeted by offline and online gender-based attacks putting their safety at risk – these attacks can range from harassment, physical and sexual assault, trolling and doxxing – obtaining and publishing private and identifiable information.

“Fatal attacks against journalists covering stories related to corruption, human rights violations, environmental crimes, trafficking, and political wrongdoing have risen,” the report said. Globally, like the previous years, television journalists constitute the largest group among the victims. Over 2018 and 2019, TV journalists constitute 30 per cent of the journalists killed with 47 fatalities, followed by radio with 24 per cent, and print media with 21 per cent of the killings.

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