Media and journalism issues

UNESCO report finds 2021 had lowest number of journalists killed since 2008

Gelo Gonzales
UNESCO report finds 2021 had lowest number of journalists killed since 2008


The UNESCO also finds that the number of cases resolved slightly increased from 11% in 2018 to 14% in 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity for 2020 to 2021 was published on Wednesday, November 2, the date of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. 

UNESCO reported a total of 117 journalist killings worldwide from 2020 to 2021. In 2020, there were 62 journalists killed, a figure which declined to 55 in 2021, the lowest since 2008 when a total of 46 were reported killed. While the number was a positive development, 2022 may be seeing the number rise again, with 66 already recorded to have been killed as of September 2022. 

It is also important to note that the 2020 and 2021 were the pandemic years, in which lockdowns around the world restricted activity.

Seventy-eight percent or 91 of the 117 killings occurred while journalists were  away from   their   immediate working    spaces    or    working    assignments.  “Most   were   killed   in   the privacy   of   their   own   home   or   while   travelling,” the report said.

Image from UNESCO report

2021 also saw the first time that cross-platform, multimedia journalists became the largest group of victims. From 2012 to 2020, TV journalists made up the biggest victim group.

In 2020 and 2021, the Latin America and Carribean region was found to have the most killings with 45, followed by Asia and the Pacific with 38, accounting for 38% and 32% of all killings worldwide respectively. 2012 saw the highest number of journalists killed in a year at 124 since 2006, the first year that UNESCO started tracking. Central and Eastern Europe had three murders in 2021, the same number as Western Europe and North America. 

Four killings were documented in the Philippines in 2020, and another 3 in 2021. Mexico has the most number of journalists murdered in 2020 and 2021 at 10 and 9 respectively. 

The UNESCO called the rise in the percentage of women journalists killed in 2021 a “worrying development.” Six percent of the killings in 2020 were women journalists, a figure which rose to 11% in 2021. UNESCO said, this “may be a reflection of women journalists being subject to online gender- based attacks which often spill over into offline violence, putting their safety at risk.” The trend has so far continued in 2022, with 11% of the killings identified as women journalists as well. 

A more positive development is the slight decrease in impunity for crimes committed against journalists. In 2018, 89% of journalists murders were unresolved. In 2022, the figure slightly improved to 86%. “UNESCO, therefore, continues to observe a five-year  upward  trend  of  resolved  cases worldwide from 11% in 2018 to 14% in 2022,” the report said.

Of the total 1,284 cases reported by UNESCO, 185 had been resolved, with 738 ongoing or unresolved, while no information had been received for 361 cases.

Of the 65 countries contacted in 2022 by UNESCO with a request to receive an update on the status of judicial inquiries on the killings of journalists, 42 countries sent a reaction, with 36 providing more detailed information on the cases that UNESCO was attempting to follow up on.

The Philippines were among those who responded to UNESCO, but is also the fourth highest out of 65 in terms of the number of killings that UNESCO asked information about with 79 cases. Highest is Iraq with 166 cases, followed by Syrian Arab Republic with 113, and Mexico with 107. The Philippines is followed by Pakistan with 77 cases, Afghanistan with 68, Somalia with 64, India with 50, and Yemen with 38.

The 42 countries that reaction represented 65% of the countries contacted, a slight increase from 2021’s 63% reaction rate, but still slower than 2020’s 71%. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.


Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.