Frequent, deliberate attacks against journalists are on the rise, and the situation has the attention of the U.N. Security Council. Its members unanimously adopted a resolution May 27 condemning the violence and abuse while affirming that independent journalism is an essential component of a democratic society.

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power said the erosion of press freedom “is often a harbinger of the rolling back of human rights that are critical to healthy democracies.”

Abuses against journalists will affect the public‘s right to independent information because they may cause other journalists to self-censor, go into hiding or leave because of the risks, she said.

Journalists are targeted because “their reporting strips away the facade and shows us what lies beneath,” Power said. (© AP Images)

Repressive states, criminal organizations, terror groups and others who target journalists “do not want people to see them for what they really are,“ Power said. Whether they torture or commit human rights atrocities to hold onto power or masquerade as a religious group, journalists are dangerous to all of them, she said, because “their reporting strips away the facade and shows us what lies beneath.”

Journalists’ presence and sharing of information also help prevent crises from “metastasizing into full-blown conflicts” and mitigate conditions that could otherwise lead to grave human rights violations, she said.

How can the international community protect journalists from those who deliberately target them? Power had four recommendations:

  • Condemn governments, nonstate actors and laws that attack or undermine journalists.
  • Give journalists the tools they need to protect themselves in conflict zones and repressive societies.
  • Investigate and prosecute those who attack journalists to ensure they are held accountable.
  • Create programs to protect journalists in conflict zones, such as providing them with safety, security and means of communications.

Want to learn more? The State Department regularly publicizes the importance of media freedom to democracy and human rights. It also conducts an annual “Free the Press” campaign in the days leading up to World Press Freedom Day, which was May 3 in 2015.