Photo depicting a recording of deforestation. The theme for this year's World Press Freedom Day is “Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis.” Image via Canva Pro courtesy of Sydney Allen.

Attacks on journalists and independent media have increased in nearly every region on earth over the last year. Amid increasing political and social stratification, journalists can face harassment, detainment, physical violence, doxing, personal attacks, and more in the course of their work. This threat only increases for women journalists who routinely face gender-based harassment and threats, as well as journalists from marginalized backgrounds, such as disabled or Indigenous reporters. 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global free press watchdog, has reported a global increase in pressure against media personnel and a widespread failure by governments to protect journalists and uphold the values of a free and fair press. In their annual World Press Freedom Index, which monitors global press freedom RSF says: 

“Press freedom around the world is being threatened by the very people who should be its guarantors – political authorities. This is clear from the latest annual World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). This finding is based on the fact that, of the five indicators used to compile the ranking, it is the political indicator that has fallen most, registering a global average fall of 7.6 points.”

This decline is no surprise considering the violent and tumultuous year that has unfolded so far in 2024. The genocide in Gaza and the ongoing war in Ukraine; the deterioration of political systems in Haiti, Sudan, Ecuador, and more; and the crackdown on independent media in countless states have all combined to produce a barren and fraught media landscape where journalists are unable to investigate or report on state actors.

It has also been an incredibly violent year for journalists. Since October 2023, at least 103 Palestinian journalists have been killed while covering the genocide in Gaza. A recent UNESCO report found that environmental journalists are particularly vulnerable to violence, a revelation that is fitting given that the theme for World Press Freedom Day 2024 is “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis.”

Much of this increased violence can be attributed to the massive number of elections that are unfolding in 2024. Countless governments, from India and Mexico, to Azerbaijan and , have major elections this year, and have therefore been working to gain control of and consolidate the press, in order to ensure continued party control. In November 2023, five journalists and editors from Global Voices’ media partner Abzas Media, an Azerbaijan-based independent media group, were arrested on bogus smuggling charges due to a reporting investigation that revealed corruption within the ruling government.

They are not alone in this as reporters currently sit in prison awaiting trial all over the world, including in China, Hong Kong, Brazil, India, and more. 

To learn more about how activists are working to restore press freedom, see our special coverage below.

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