By Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld and Dr. Reba Goodman
In February 2018, a gunman burst into the home of an investigative reporter in Slovakia and fatally shot him. In June, a disgruntled reader entered the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Maryland and gunned down four journalists. In October, Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter and Saudi exile, was murdered and dismembered by Saudi Arabian government agents.
At least 34 journalists were murdered in 2018, a 90 percent increase over the previous year. The number of journalists in jail is also at a record high, 251 by recent count. These statistics tell a terrible story about the current plight of reporters. These facts and many others are told by Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Many of the targeted murders were of reporters who were doing their work and were killed basically because they were investigating political corruption and organized crime.
According to the 2018 Impunity Index compiled by CPJ, more than 85 percent of murders of journalists go unpunished.
The ominous rise of demagogic autocratic nationalists in Turkey, Hungary, Italy, Brazil, Poland, Egypt, and Trump in the United States has created serious problems for the news media. Trump has called the media the enemy of the people and promoted the idea of fake news. He has undermined the notion of truth. In fact, the number of journalists imprisoned on charges of publishing “false news” has more than tripled since Trump took office, from nine to 28. Freedom of the press is a vital moral issue intrinsically connected with human rights.
Every year on May 3, the UN commemorates World Press Freedom Day. Press freedom is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. It states that “everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
In spite of the litany of bad news, reporters continue to persist in doing their professional work, reporting and getting the story. For more information and to help, see the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.
Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld and Dr. Reba Goodman are members of The Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.