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According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 2022 was one of the deadliest years on record for journalists around the globe, with a nearly 50 percent increase in killings from the previous years. Lisa Desjardins speaks to Jodie Ginsberg, president of the CPJ, about the increasingly dangerous environment for journalists worldwide.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says 2022 was one of the deadliest on record for journalists around the world. Killings increased by nearly 50 percent from the previous year. Lisa Desjardins has more on the increasingly dangerous environment for journalists worldwide.
Over the past five years, 289 journalists have been killed worldwide, many in retaliation for the work they were doing. Last year, 67 journalists were killed, the highest number in a single year since 2018. More than half of those deaths happened in just three countries. In Ukraine, 15 died covering Russia's brutal war there. Mexico and Haiti saw the sharpest rise in killings, 30 journalists were killed in Latin America alone, nearly half of all journalists killed last year.
Joining us now to talk about this is Jodie Ginsberg, president at the Committee to Protect Journalists. Jodie, the first question is, why do you think we're seeing this increase in journalists deaths and killings?
Jodie Ginsburg, President, Committee to Protect Journalists: There's a couple of reasons. As you mentioned, the highest number of killings was in Ukraine, as you would expect any kind of international conflict.
But increasingly, we're seeing journalists killed outside of war zones. As you said, nearly half the deaths that we documented last year were in the Latin America region, which is officially not in any conflict. And what that's indicative of is this global political instability. We're seeing increased lawlessness and a decline in democracy worldwide. There was one killing of a journalist here in the United States last year.
Can you talk more about that and more about this hemisphere, including Mexico and Haiti?
Well, in Latin America, for example, we saw 30 journalist killings out of the 67 last year. The majority of those are in Mexico, where we've seen a real uptick in violence. Generally, we see journalists killed for covering corruption, corruption, particularly in local politics. Local journalists are incredibly vulnerable. They often don't have the protections afforded to them by working for a big national media outlet. Covering protests can be fatal.
We're seeing more and more political protests, of course, as people are discontented from global economy and other issues. So that's an area of concern. In Haiti, we've seen effectively a complete collapse of any authority. People are covering gang warfare, but it's all part of a bigger pattern of increased lawlessness in the region.
Of course, killings are the thing that people pay attention to, but also the number of imprisonments of journalists is on the rise. Other forms of harassment, including online harassment, can you talk about why you think that is on the rise and who is using that as a tool to try and stifle journalists?
That's true. Last year was a record number for imprisoned journalists, over 350 journalists in prison at the end of November and December, the first last year. In part, that's also because we're seeing increased use of legal means to imprison journalists, to prevent them covering corruption.
When you think about it, the killings and the imprisonments of journalists are just the tip of the iceberg. They're indicative of a much broader pattern of a decline in press freedom more generally. We see thousands of journalists harass online every day, and unfortunately, often that turns into offline, real world violence, physical threats against journalists, and that's something we're seeing more and more.
Have you been able to tell if that is, in fact, stifling coverage, stifling the ability of information to get out?
Absolutely. I mean, the reason people go after journalists is because they want to silence and they want to stop the story getting out. And that's exactly what happens. It's a deterrent. It stops other journalists from reporting on the issue. In some areas, we have essentially complete information, black holes in places like Mexico where people cannot talk about the violence, the corruption going on in their local areas. That's incredibly dangerous for ordinary people who rely on that kind of information and that kind of reporting from journalists.
So then this leads back to, I think, the thread that you're weaving throughout this, which is about democracy and crisis around the world or threats to democracy. How do you connect that to what's happening as a threat for journalists?
Well, the way I would connect it is this. We've simultaneously seen this decline in democracy is accompanied by an undermining of democratic norms, and that includes this idea that journalists are the enemy, that they are something not to be trusted. And we've seen that repeatedly used as a refrain by those in power who, of course, would use that argument because they don't want their affairs looked into.
But that narrative, unfortunately, seeps through into the general population, who increasingly grow to distrust journalists, see them as representatives of one political side or other. And so that general narrative helps to undermine the credibility of journalism, and that's what helps contribute to this increasing lack of safety for journalists worldwide.
Jodie Ginsburg with the Committee to Protect Journalists, very sobering and important work. Thank you for talking with us.
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Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Lorna Baldwin is an Emmy and Peabody award winning producer at the PBS NewsHour. In her two decades at the NewsHour, Baldwin has crisscrossed the US reporting on issues ranging from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan to tsunami preparedness in the Pacific Northwest to the politics of poverty on the campaign trail in North Carolina. Farther afield, Baldwin reported on the problem of sea turtle nest poaching in Costa Rica, the distinctive architecture of Rotterdam, the Netherlands and world renowned landscape artist, Piet Oudolf.
Andrew Corkery is a national affairs producer at PBS News Weekend.
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