By Norman Isaac Mwambazi
The year 2020 has without a doubt been different a year in many aspects, but some things have remained the same.
Things like journalists being on the receiving end of violence from security officials, and having their equipment confiscated, sometimes destroyed and in extreme situations losing their lives.
In Uganda, this year has seen some journalists hospitalised like Ashraf Kasirye of Ghetto Media and Daniel Lutaya from NBS TV, and Radio One who are fighting for their lives in hospital due to brutalisation from police and the military. Earlier in the year, the controversial Samson Kasumba also spent a few days in the coolers.
As a result of this continued brutality from state security apparatus, a new report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that 50 journalists and media workers were killed in connection with their work in 2020 around the world, the majority in countries that are not at war.
RSF says that Mexico was the deadliest country with eight journalists killed, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan.
The total number of journalists killed in 2020 was slightly lower than the 53 reported in 2019, although RSF said fewer journalists worked in the field this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s grim toll shows an increase in the targeting of reporters investigating organised crime, corruption, or environmental issues, the watchdog said.
The annual report which consists of data on violence against journalists around the globe says that 84% of the journalists killed this year were “deliberately targeted” for their work, which is way higher than the 63% percent in 2019.
“For several years now, Reporters Without Borders has noted that investigative journalists are really in the crosshairs of states, or cartels,” said Pauline Ades-Mevel, RSF editor-in-chief.
“Links between drug traffickers and politicians remain, and journalists who dare to cover these or related issues continue to be the targets of barbaric murders,” said the report.
Five journalists were killed in war-torn Afghanistan, and the report also highlighted the case of Iranian opposition figure Ruhollah Zam, who ran a popular social media channel that rallied opponents who was executed in December. His execution means that Iran has officially put the most number of journalists to death in the past half-century.
Apart from deaths, the report lists 387 jailed journalists, which it called “a historically high number.” Fourteen of those were arrested in connection with their coverage of the coronavirus crisis.
China alone has punished eight virus whistle-blowers so far as they curb criticism of the government’s response to the outbreak.
This week on Monday, Ugandan journalists stormed out of a press conference that had been held by security officials at the Uganda Media Centre to protest against the continued violation of their rights as members of the fourth estate, and the failure of the security officials to apologise for their recent actions