Between 2014 and 2018, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) recorded 495 murders of journalists around the world, and Latin America and the Caribbean was the second most lethal region for media professionals: 127 of these deaths occurred here, a quarter of the total.
These and other data about violence against journalists can be found in the report, "Intensified attacks, new defenses: developments in the fight to protect journalists and end impunity.”
The report was issued on Oct. 31, to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI), celebrated annually on Nov. 2. The date was set by the UN in 2013 in honor of French journalists Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont, who were killed in Mali on Nov. 2 of that year.
According to UNESCO, there has been an increase of 18 percent in murders of journalists worldwide over the past five years compared to the previous period (2009-2013), and most deaths occurred in Arab States (North African and Middle Eastern countries): 149, or 30 percent of the total.
Mexico was the second country with the highest number of journalist murders, surpassed only by Syria, embroiled in a civil war since 2011: there were 54 murders in the Arab country and 53 in the Latin American country in the last five years, according to UNESCO. Other Latin American countries on the organization's list are Brazil (23 murders), Guatemala (13), Colombia (12), Honduras (12), Paraguay (4), Peru (4), El Salvador (3) and Dominican Republic (2).
While by 2015 the majority of murders of journalists occurred in conflict regions, as of 2016 this ratio has been reversed, and in the last two years 55 percent of deaths have occurred outside conflict regions, the organization reported. “This trend exemplifies the changing nature of killings of journalists, who are often targeted because of their reporting on politics, crime and corruption,” the report said.
According to UNESCO data, 91 percent of professionals killed in the last five years worked in local journalism. To draw public attention to the risks faced by local journalists, on Oct. 31 the organization launched the campaign #KeepTruthAlive campaign. The site features a map with information about each case publicly condemned by UNESCO since 1993 and whether the murder has gone unpunished.
Through the campaign, IDEI 2019 “shines the spotlight on local journalists working on corruption and politics in non-conflict situations,” said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, in her message about the day. "The end of a journalist’s life should never be the end of the quest for truth.”
Also in the framework of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its 2019 Global Impunity Index on Oct. 29.
The report named the 13 countries in the world with the highest impunity rates for killers of journalists. Among them are two Latin American countries: Mexico, in seventh place in the ranking, and Brazil, in ninth.
According to CPJ, in Mexico there was only one conviction in the 31 murders of journalists registered by the organization between Sept. 1, 2009 and Aug. 31, 2019. The country is also the deadliest for journalists so far in 2019, with five professionals killed because of their work, according to CPJ data.
Brazil has 15 murders of journalists that happened between 2009 and 2019 and are still unpunished, according to the organization.