Understanding the threats

Topic Progress:

Journalists  and  media  professionals  perform  a  critical  role,  reporting  news  and  information  to  the public that can bring misdeeds to light, make public institutions accountable and contribute to the  creation  of  more  just,  peaceful and inclusive societies.

The killing of journalists and media professionals is the ultimate form of censorship according to UNESCO. However, this is not only is it a grave violation of human rights, it also represents a broader attack on the collective right to freedom of expression and access to information.

This “censorship-by-violence” works to intimidate others and encourages the   use of self-censorship on free expression. It should be noted that the violence   and   harassment is a climax of actions  taken  by  state  or  non-state  actors,  contextual  factors  such  as  political  and  social  circumstances, or norms legitimizing intolerance.

The United Nation UN  Special  Rapporteur  on  the  right  of  freedom  of  opinion  and  expression  has called for the protection of journalists against attacks not because it is ‘fundamental for  journalists  to  be  able  to  perform  their  work, but also for society’s access to information and for government accountability’.

The UN’s push for greater safety comes at one of the most dangerous times on record for media professionals. To fully realize how dangerous journalism has become, history has it that only two journalists died covering the First World War in all four years of bloody carnage and for the 20 or so years of the Vietnam War there were 63 deaths.

However, the past four years have been the most deadly period according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the figures are climbing record highest. Also, although women journalists are a fraction of the total of causalities, they are often subjected to non-fatal attacks simply because their gender is seen as either an aggravating factor, or an invitation, by those seeking to take control of a story being worked on.

The ramifications of this violence also bear   not   only   physical but also psychological consequences. Dependent on their beat and  time in the  field,  journalists  are  exposed  to  scenes  and  images  of  trauma  that  can  have  profound  implications  for   their   psychological   health.

For   example,   studies  have  noted  prolonged  substance  abuse  among some war correspondents and journalists working    with user-generated content,    who frequently  witness  images  of  graphic  violence. Those  journalists  covering  drug-related  conflict  and   war   correspondents   are   most  at  risk   of   developing   post-traumatic   stress   disorder   and   other  psychiatric  symptoms  as  a  direct  result  of  their  work.

Professional  stigma,  fears  of  being  judged   by   their   peers   and   lack   of   awareness   often    prevent   journalists—particularly those  who  experience  a  lack  of  job  security  or  who  work in insecure contexts—from seeking support from  their  editors  or  healthcare  professionals. However,  there  is  growing  recognition  of  this  issue  and  new  program  have  begun  to  arise  that  address  the  needs  of  news  professionals  reporting   on   conflict   and   trauma.   A   recent   example  is  the  establishment  by  the  University  of  Peshawar  (Pakistan)  in  collaboration  with  DW  Akademie, of the Competence and Trauma Center for  Journalists,  which  offers  free  counseling  for  journalists working in the region.