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Jakarta Post

Violence against press drops: Report

  • Kharishar Kahfi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, November 6, 2018   /   01:55 pm
Violence against press drops: Report Press freedom illustration (Shutterstock/File)

While the trend indicates decreasing cases of violence against journalists over the last couple of years, the legal impunity of the perpetrators will likely remain the norm, as highlighted in a report recently issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

In its report to the Intergovernmental Council of the International Program for the Development of Communication (IPDC), the UN agency highlighted that it recorded the killings of 182 journalists between 2016 and 2017, 82 of which occurred in 2017 – the lowest number since 2011.

The number is also lower than that during the previous two-year period, when 213 journalists were killed while doing their job.

“However, this trend does not appear to be confirmed in 2018, with 80 killings already condemned by the director general of UNESCO as of Oct. 9,” the report wrote.

Asia Pacific is the region with the most killings with 27 occurrences, or 34 percent of all journalist killings, in 2017. The year also recorded the first time in recent years that the majority of such killings, 55 percent, occurred in countries not experiencing armed conflicts.

Female journalists tend to face greater risks in the form of sexual harassment, violence and threats of violence; both in real life and online. The report cited a survey published in 2018 by Trollbusters and the International Women’s Media Foundation, which reported that 58 percent of female journalists stated they had been threatened or harassed.

Indonesia appears to be following the global trend of decreasing cases of violence against journalists. According to the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the country saw fewer cases of violence against journalists in 2017 with 66 cases, down from 81 in 2016.

“However, the number can still be considered higher than our average of 40 to 50 cases per year in the last 10 years,” AJI chairman Abdul Manan told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

As of Thursday, the alliance had recorded 34 cases of violence throughout this year, seven of which took the form of destruction of journalists’ equipment.

Abdul noted at least seven journalist killings in the country that remained unresolved, which include the murder of Yogyakarta-based daily Bernas journalist Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin, or Udin, in 1996.

The number of unsolved cases resonates in the UNESCO report, which highlighted that only one in 10 killings around the world had been resolved.

“These unresolved cases will prolong the culture of legal impunity for the perpetrators, which may open the possibility of recurring [violence] in the future,” Abdul said.

Such violence can only be solved by firm law enforcement by law enforcers, who have even taken part in the violence themselves in a number of cases.

“The Press Council should also play a more active role in solving the issue as mandated [by the Press Law],” Abdul said.

Indonesian Press Council chairman Yoseph Adi Prasetyo could not be reached for comment. 

In a statement, UN secretary general António Guterres urged governments and international communities to protect journalists as societies are paying the price for violence against the press.

He was echoed by UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay, who said “the fight against impunity is inseparable from the defense of fundamental freedoms, [which include] the freedom of access to information”.

In commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which falls on Friday, UNESCO is launching a new campaign, called “Truth Never Dies”, which encourages media organizations and journalists to publish and share stories on, or written by, other journalists who have been killed for doing their job.

The campaign, UNESCO added, would send a strong message that “killing a journalist does not kill the truth, it just makes it more talked about”.