All over the world journalists are being killed, harassed, intimidated and imprisoned.
“Public opinion about media and journalism is at an all-time low. Access to the Internet and social media is curtailed and is filled with disinformation and propaganda campaigns,” said Sandy Close, Director of Ethnic Media Services, addressing a panel of ethnic media editors who discussed this issue and offered solutions.
“We used to take information for granted but cannot do so now.”
Carlos Martinez de La Serna, Program Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that during a political crisis like a change in government or even a health crisis like Covid, information and journalism become targets and journalists are often attacked and imprisoned.
“There are a record number of journalists being imprisoned and killed in the world. For instance, last year there were 47 journalists jailed on trumped up charges according to press freedom,” said de La Serna.
Most journalist killed are rarely investigated and there is a growing community of journalists, especially in Nicaragua and Ukraine, who live in exile because they cannot work within their home countries. He added that there is a direct link between the use of social media to attack journalists and journalist’s safety. To combat this, journalists have to engage directly in the community they report on to gain trust of others.
Ricardo Trotti, Executive Director of the Interamerican Press Association, said that 12 journalists were killed in this year in the Americas – 8 in Mexico, 3 in Haiti, and one in Guatemala and in Honduras.
“Crime, drug trafficking, corruption of government officials and of the police, are the leading cause of the problem. There is impunity in 90% of the cases and prevention does not exist,” said Trotti.
“In Nicaragua, the Ortega regime has imprisoned journalists – more than 150 journalists there have been expelled and live in exile. In Cuba, artists and journalists have suffered since July 2021; one of the most challenging periods of repression in the last 25 years.”
The result is a lack of access to information which makes it difficult to fight corruption and poverty. In addition, critical revenue from advertising has migrated to larger digital platforms creating news deserts. For example, 60% of cities in Columbia do not have local journalism.
Rusian Gurzhiy, Editor-in-chief of Slavic Sacramento, a popular Russian speaking news resource in CA, said that he has been investigating corruption in Russia, Ukraine, and USA since 2014.
“Because of this work I have been getting threats by the Ukrainian police,” said Gurzhiy.
“Many people who live in Sacramento do not speak English and so they tune-into Russia-based programming which is essentially propaganda. Our job in Sacramento is to engage this community and give them the right information. For this work we have been banned in Russia and also by Voice of America.”
Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor of SupChina, said that in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), independent media has been shut down and it’s now all about propaganda.
“Journalist get harassed all the time, and there is a growing feeling of nationalism online because they feel foreign journalists are misrepresenting China,” said Goldkorn.
“If you’re a Chinese journalist you’re either in jail, left the profession or writing press releases. It’s pretty sad.”
He added that in the US, if you’re seen as anti-Chinese, your media can be boycotted by people associated with the PRC and you can be harassed online.
“It can be very frightening.”Some solutions proposed were to educate the public to pay for media since it supports local journalism, which is critical for our democracy, and to provide legal support for ethnic media.
“It is important for publishers to have revenue,” said Gurzhiy.
“Without journalism corruption arises,” added Trotti.
“Every journalist killed in the line of duty in the US since mid 70s had reported for ethnic media,” said Sandy Close. “Covering your own community can be as dangerous as covering those in power.”
Ramaa Reddy is a writer, photographer, food and travel specialist who blogs at venturetraveller.com