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What Freedom Do We Have For The Press?

In three months, it will be one year since Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia on March 29, 2023. Friends, family, and supporters have come together to support Gershkovich and fight for his freedom to return home safely.

“Evan is a dedicated, accredited reporter who returned to Russia to cover the aftermath of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a moment of which he was one of our finest chroniclers. Journalism is not a crime. The Russian government must release Evan immediately.” says the website dedicated to freeing Gershkovich, advocates for him by explaining his credibility as a journalist.

Did you know that being a journalist is one of the most dangerous professions? I didn’t know that until now, during my research about the Evan Gershkovich case. I always knew that journalism was a stressful tough business, but I didn’t know that it involved being targeted, harassed, detained, going missing, and even killed. Unfortunately, these events do happen often. According to UNESCO, one of the key trends is that journalism remains a dangerous profession, and nine times out of ten, the murder of a journalist is unresolved.

The organization explains the horrendous treatment that journalists face across the world by saying, “Worldwide, journalists face harassment, imprisonment, violence, or death—simply for doing their jobs.” This information not only made me upset, but it also shook me to my core. Journalism is not just a profession; journalism is my profession. It’s something I studied as an intern in high school, I went to college for eight years for my associate degree, and it’s something that I’m working hard for now as an intern for the digital media organization known as The Social Talks for my pursuit of seeking employment. I even received a Keystone Media Award for my ongoing news coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Now you’re telling me that my years of experience as an aspiring journalist could potentially get me targeted, harassed, detained, missing, and even killed? Why is it like this? Why is the simple profession of doing research and telling a story dangerous for members of the journalism field? According to Freedom House, they explain why the life of a journalist comes with such horrible treatment by saying, “Journalists are being harassed, assaulted, jailed, and killed in record numbers for reporting on the activities of their governments, issues of major public concern, and information ordinary people may not otherwise be able to access.” Unfortunately, there have been several cases where freedom of speech was violated and faced a tragic end. One example would be in a CNN article, where Jerusalem Correspondent Hadas Gold reported about Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh losing her life while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Hadas Gold explained that she was shot in the head, and The Palestinian health ministry confirmed her death shortly afterwards. They also stated how her producer Abu Akleh’s producer Ali Al-Samudi was also shot but in stable condition. Then Hadas Gold explained how Al Jazeera was involved in this case by saying, “Al Jazeera has accused Israeli security forces of deliberately targeting and killing Abu Akleh, 51 – one of the Arab world’s most prominent journalists – and called on the international community to condemn the killing and hold Israel accountable.”

Writer Naira Galarraga Gorázar talks about the deaths of UK journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous rights advocate Bruno Pereira in this EL PIAS article, NAIARA details how Dom and Bruno went missing in Javari Valley, which is home to the largest concentration of uncontacted indigenous people. She also explained that it’s a place where hunters, drug traffickers, and other dangerous activities take place, and Phillips and Pereira disappeared while returning from a guard post in a remote part of the jungle where Dom was doing interviews for a book.

NAIARA explained how the case was solved by saying, “One of the two fishermen arrested in connection with the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips, 57, and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, 41, has confessed to participating in the murder and has led investigators to the place where the remains were buried, according to the head of the Federal Police in Amazonas, Eduardo Fontes, who gave a news conference on Wednesday night in Manaus.”

Crime reporter David Wilson spoke on the death of his colleague Jeff German in this article. Wilson explained how German was found stabbed to death outside his home on a Saturday morning. Police responded to a 911 call made by a person who stated that their neighbor was dead on the side of the victim’s house, which was a statement made by Metropolitan Police Department Captain Dori Koren. Finally, David explained how police found Jeff’s body by saying, “Police found German, 69, with stab wounds outside of his home. Police believe he was in an altercation with another person on Friday in the late morning that led to him being stabbed.”

With all these acts of violence taking place, what are we going to do about it? According to United Nations, an organization called International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists was created. The main commemoration took place in Washington D.C. at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) between November 2-3, 2023.

United Nations explained its mission for creating this organization by saying, “The 2023 observance seeks to raise awareness of the main challenges faced by journalists and communicators in the exercise of their profession and to warn of the escalation of violence and repression against them.”

In conclusion, when we think about journalism, let’s think about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and changing the world with a story. We should also take into account that this fight for freedom of the press is not only for current journalists working today, but it’s also for future journalists that desire to tell future stories of the world to come.

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