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Killing with impunity: Vast majority of journalists’ murderers go free

Mexican journalists gather around pictures of murdered colleagues as they protest the recent killings of journalists Margarito Martinez and Lourdes Maldonado, in Veracruz, Mexico, on January 25, 2022. (Reuters/Yahir Ceballos)

By Jennifer Dunham/CPJ Deputy Editorial Director

No one has been held to account in nearly 80% of journalist murders during the last 10 years, CPJ’s 2022 Global Impunity Index found, and governments show little interest in tackling the issue.

The vast majority of killers of journalists continue to get away with murder, according to CPJ’s 2022 Global Impunity Index. In nearly 80% of the 263 cases of journalists murdered in retaliation for their work globally over the past decade, the perpetrators have faced no punishment.

Somalia remains the worst offender on the index for the eighth straight year. Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, respectively, round out the top five countries on the index, which covers the period September 1, 2012, to August 31, 2022. Each of these countries has featured on CPJ’s index multiple times, with their history of conflict, political instability, and weak rule of law underscoring the entrenched nature of impunity and making it unlikely that authorities will ever devote resources to seeking justice for the journalists.

Myanmar makes its first appearance on the index in 2022, its number eight ranking marking another grim milestone after joining the ranks of the world’s worst jailers of journalists in CPJ’s December 1, 2021, prison census. In the wake of the democracy-suspending coup in February 2021, Myanmar’s military junta has jailed dozens of journalists and used sweeping anti-state and false news laws to suppress independent reporting. It also has murdered at least three journalists, including two—Aye Kyaw and Soe Naing—who photographed protests against the regime and later were arrested and killed in custody.

But even in less volatile countries with democratically elected governments, authorities show little political will for prosecuting journalists’ killers or curbing violence against the press. Rather, leaders, such as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, regularly launch verbal attacks on the media even as reporters face constant threats for their vital reporting on crime, corruption, and environmental issues.

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