willems6_ Eko Siswono ToyudhoAnadolu AgencyGetty Images_riot police press freedom Eko Siswono Toyudho/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Preventing the Death of Independent Journalism

From physical attacks to economic strain to COVID-19 restrictions, independent journalists are struggling to do their jobs. Given their vital role in enabling informed debate and promoting political accountability, governments must take urgent action to protect them.

AMSTERDAM – A story too good to fact-check is the tale of the boiled frog. Rather than being dropped directly into boiling water – from which it would instantly jump – the frog is slid gently into a pot of comfortably warm water, and the heat is turned up. By the time the frog realizes that the water has gotten too hot, it is too late, and it is boiled alive. Independent journalism may now be confronting a similar scenario.

The water temperature around journalists has been rising for the last 15 years. But the heat has recently been turned up. For example, in 2019 alone, the number of unwarranted detentions of journalists increased by 12%, to a total of 389. Almost half are being held in three countries: China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Popular protests are particularly risky for journalists. At demonstrations in Algeria, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Venezuela, journalists have been routinely intimidated, harassed, and attacked. In the United States, journalists covering the protests against police brutality and systemic racism, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, have faced indiscriminate attacks at the hands of law enforcement. The US Press Freedom Tracker counted more than 900 press-freedom violations so far this year, including more than 177 physical attacks.