The murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has brought into horrifying focus the dangers faced by reporters throughout the world.
At least 74 journalists have been murdered so far in 2018 – and in the past six years, more than 600 journalists have been killed. Practising journalism is now more dangerous than at any time in the last ten years. Today only one out of ten killings of journalists is resolved.
The human rights organisation ‘Article 19’ says that 78 journalists were killed in 2017 and a further 326 were imprisoned for their work due to the rise of authoritarian governments. More than half of those behind bars were held in Turkey, China, and Egypt, often on charges of opposing the state.
Journalists are facing the ‘normalising’ of hostility towards them for doing their job along with increased internet censorship, concentration of media ownership and job losses.
US President Donald Trump claims that critical reporting is fake news. His condemnation of reporters he considers ‘out of line’ helps to legitimise hostility towards journalists which increases the risks for reporters in many parts of the world.
The International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) ‘End Impunity’ campaign 2018 aims to hold governments accountable and to denounce crimes targeting journalists that remain unpunished.
A number of unions representing journalists are supporting the IFJ proposal for an international convention on the safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals.
While it is vital to support such measures, journalists need to build strong independent trade unions in each country to defend journalists and journalism from oppressive governments and employers.
Journalists cannot rely on governments and employers to ensure a free press. We need to campaign for a genuinely free media that is neither under big business control nor state control. Instead, we call for nationalisation of media resources so they can be used for the benefit of all sections of society.
Many capitalist governments and employers alike talk about ‘freedom of the press’ but are prepared to attack the freedom and endanger the safety of journalists if it suits them.
In a socialist society it should be a means of communication for everyone, with its parameters discussed and decided democratically involving the widest possible number of people. Then it can help with discussing what people need and want.
By Roger Butler