A free press is essential to an informed citizenry. A vigorous press can, for instance, expose corruption, shine a light on human rights abuses, and provide the public essential information during crises. In many places, journalists fulfilling this necessary role risk attacks by authoritarian regimes and criminal organizations seeking to clamp down on press freedom and freedom of expression. More than 1,500 journalists have been killed worldwide since the turn of the century, and in more than 85 percent of cases, the killers go unpunished.
Journalists around the world also face harassment, threats, arbitrary detentions, and politically motivated prosecutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, authoritarian governments in China, Venezuela, Iran, and elsewhere have used COVID-19 as an excuse to threaten, detain, and attack journalists. Female journalists face specific risks, including cyber trolling, reputational slander, and other gender-based threats and violence.
Governments enable impunity by failing to redress these abuses and crimes against journalists, and by committing abuses as well. Nongovernmental organizations rank China, North Korea, and Turkmenistan among the worst countries in the world for press freedom, while Syria and Mexico are among the most dangerous. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt imprison more journalists for their reporting than other countries.
On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the United States calls for governments to undertake independent and transparent investigations into threats, attacks, and murder when they occur; reform police practices that enable mistreatment of journalists; and abolish laws and practices limiting their freedom of expression.