In the first half of 2020, the number of protests in which the police and security forces violated freedom of the press increased significantly, according to a UNESCO report on the safety of journalists in covering protests and freedom of the press during civil unrest. Between January and June this year, 21 protests took place against the freedom of the press, including attacks on, arrest or even killing of journalists, the organization said.
UNESCO report, published in Paris on 14 September, highlights a broader trend over the last five years, with increasing use of illicit force by police and security forces. In 2015, during 15 protests, the police and security forces obstructed the work of journalists, while in 2019 this number was already 32. The report also states that
over the past five years, 10 journalists have been killed in protest.
This indicates a growing threat to freedom of the press and access to information worldwide.
The report concludes that the main causes of protests over the past five years have been concerns about economic injustice, government corruption, declining political freedoms and growing authoritarianism. Journalists covering the protests have been subjected to violations such as surveillance, harassment, intimidation, beatings, shooting, detention, hijacking and the destruction of targeted equipment.
Opening the report, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azule stressed that the freedom to inform the public about the causes of unrest and the reaction of public authorities to it is important for strengthening democracy. The Director General highlighted the important role of journalists in reporting and informing the public about protest movements.
UNESCO points to the need to ensure that journalists can work without fear of persecution.
The report makes concrete recommendations to the media, public authorities and international organizations on how to ensure better protection for journalists. These include training the police and law enforcement agencies on freedom of expression and appropriate handling of the press; providing journalists with the necessary training and equipment to cover protests; the appointment of a national ombudsman to hold the police accountable for the use of force against journalists during demonstrations; and the strengthening of state mechanisms for the safety of journalists.
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