Safety of journalists covering protests: preserving freedom of the press during times of turmoil

14 September 2021

A wave of protests has broken out in recent years across the globe. There is contestation about labelling such mass events, as can be seen in the terms riots, civil unrest, civil disobedience, etc., which are sometimes attributed to them. This brief uses the term protests as a generic to cover all these forms of mass action in the exercise of the right to association, and irrespective of whether there may be elements of violence or not. Along with these protests, there has been a notable escalation of attacks against the press.

In 2011, UNESCOs General Conference issued a resolution requesting the Organization to monitor the status of press freedom and safety of journalists worldwide and to report on the developments in these fields to the General Conference.

Following this request, since 2014, UNESCO has produced the series on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development (World Trends Report). This issue brief is part of the World Trends Report series, which aims to provide comprehensive and data-driven evidence on global and regional trends in media freedom, pluralism, independence and safety, all examined through a gender-sensitive lens.

Drawing on credible documentation from partners, UNESCO Field Offices and Member States, and triangulation of press reports, this report identifies 125 instances of attacks on or arrests of journalists covering protests in 65 countries between 1 January 2015 and 30 June 2020. Among these, 15 took place in 2015; 16 in 2016; 21 in 2017; 20 in 2018; 32 in 2019; and 21 in the first half of 2020 alone, clearly indicating an upward trend in the number of attacks faced by journalists when covering protests.
Safety of Journalists; Freedom of Expression; Access to Information; CI Response to pandemic; COVID-19

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