Freedom of expression and access to factual and accurate information brought to citizens by a vibrant and independent media are foundational to democratic societies. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression includes the right of all individuals "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Yet the outlook today for the rights of journalists around the world to be respected remains grim.
There are of course the obvious dangers under which reporters working in conflict zones operate. Then if you happen to pledge allegiance to the cause of a future Palestinian state, the killing of the Palestinian-American veteran Al Jazeera reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, during an Israeli army raid at the Jenin refugee camp, served as a chilling reminder of how even the requisite protective measures - she wore the blue bulletproof vest with its extra large letterings to identify members of the PRESS, as well as the standard helmet. But it wasn't enough to save an iconic journalist's life. Abu Akleh's death has shaken the entire journalism profession in a way few others did in recent memory.
She was shot with a single bullet beneath the ear - one of the few unprotected parts of the body that still leaves anyone wearing the standard safety equipment for reporters vulnerable. Going by the Committee to Protect Journalists or CPJ's database on journalist killings, the number of journalists killed in the line of duty in 2022 is set to easily surpass the number killed last year (45). That is because even before we've reached the halfway mark for the year, indeed with a full month to go, some 33 journalists have already been killed in the line of duty, rising to 35 if more generally defined media workers are included.
The highest number killed - 13 and counting - has been in war-raged Ukraine. Next on the list is Mexico, where eight journalists have been killed. Three journalists have been killed in Haiti, while India, Chad, Myanmar, Brazil, Turkey, Guatemala and the occupied West Bank have each had one journalist killed while doing their work in 2022, according to the CPJ's database. It could end up being the deadliest year for journalists since at least 2018.
The DSA continues to be used to harass and indefinitely detain journalists, activists and others, resulting in a chilling effect on expression of dissent. In such a situation, it is perhaps not surprising that Bangladesh has this year slipped substantially- a full ten notches in the space of a single year signals a pretty serious slide - in RSF's World Press Freedom Index.
Bangladesh has been ranked 162nd out of 180 countries, while its position was 152nd last year, and 151st the year before last (2020). Within South Asia, we had already scraped the bottom of the barrel last year - countries like Afghanistan and Bhutan and Nepal had already surged ahead. Now we've just gone further down the spiral, in a region that is also marked out as 'notable' for its creeping, yet unmistakably growing curbs on press freedom.
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