Five reasons why journalism isn’t all glitz and glam

Day to end impunity toolkit

Journalists are known for uncovering the truth. What is less known is how these journalists gather these facts, often risking their jobs, and sometimes their lives, to discover information others are attempting to keep hidden from the world.

The Taksim Gezi Park Protest

The Gezi Park protest in Turkey made international news when, in May 2013, a sit-in at the park protesting plans to develop the area sparked violent clashes with police. What didn’t grab the attention of media workers worldwide was that at least 59 of their fellow journalists were fired or forced to quit over their reporting of the events.

The Turkish press have been long-time sufferers of the need to self-censor in an environment where the press is ultimately run by a handful of wealthy individuals. The Gezi Park protests saw a surge in the controlling influence of the Turkish media as 22 journalists were fired and a further 37 forced to quit due to their determination to cover the clashes for a national and international audience, as was their duty as journalists.

Turkey came in at 154th in the Reporters Without Borders Freedom of the Press Index 2013, a drop of six places from 2012.

Journalists imprisoned

2013 was the first year a detailed survey was carried out by Reporters Without Borders which looked into how many journalists had been imprisoned for their work; the result was shocking. One hundred and seventy eight journalists were spending time in jail for their actions, along with 14 media assistants. Perhaps more worrying was the statistic that 166 netizens had been imprisoned, those who actively supply the world with content often without being paid whilst gaining access to places that many ‘official’ journalists are banned from.

China handed out the most prison sentences during 2013 with 30 media personal serving time behind bars. Closely behind was Eritrea with 28 journalists imprisoned, Turkey with 27, and Iran and Syria handing out 20 sentences each.

Press freedom in Afghanistan

Murder, injuries, threats, beatings, closure of media organisations, and the dismissal for liking a Facebook post have all accounted towards the 62 cases of violence against the media and journalists working in Afghanistan over the past eight months. The Afghanistan Journalists Center, which collected the data from January to August 2013, has claimed that government officials and security forces, the Taliban, and illegal armed groups are behind the majority of attacks.

Of particular concern is the growing threat to female journalists who have been forced to quit their jobs after threats to their families.

According to the Afghanistan Media Law; every person has the right to freedom of thought and speech, which includes the right to seek, obtain and disseminate information and views within the limit of law without any interference, restriction and threat by the government or officials- a law Afghanistan does not appear to be upholding.

Exiled journalists

Some journalists are taking a risk every day that they go to work. They may not be killed for their reporting but that does not stop them facing imprisonment, violence, and harassment. Between June 2008 and May 2013 the CPJ found that 456 journalists were forced into exile as a means of protecting their families and themselves due to their determination to uncover the truth.

The top countries from which journalists fled included Somalia, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka with Iran topping the table having forced a total of 82 journalists into exile. Although a majority of these journalists claim sanctuary in countries like Sweden, the U.S and Kenya, only 7% of those exiled since 2008 have been able to return home.


Murder is a crime for which those involved should be punished. Yet in the case of the killing of journalists nine out of 10 killers go free. Put another way, in only five percent of cases for the murder of a journalist does the defendant receive a sentence of full justice. The most likely reason to kill a journalist is to silence them from speaking the truth to others.

IFEX, global freedom of expression network behind the International Day to End Impunity campaign said: “When someone acts with impunity, it means that their actions have no consequences. Intimidation, threats, attacks and murders go unpunished.  In the past 10 years, more than 500 journalists have been killed. Murder is the ultimate form of censorship, and media are undoubtedly on the frontlines of free expression.”

Lebanon: At least nine journalists attacked covering clashes

At least nine Lebanese journalists have been attacked whilst covering ongoing clashes in Syria over the last month in four separate incidents. On 10 June, Ghadi Francis from Beirut-based TV station Al-Jadeed was attacked by the bodyguard of a politician participating in the internal elections of the local Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Francis was punched in the face and kicked several times. Firas Shoufi, another journalist, attempted to intervene, but was also beaten. On 21 May, cameraman Naji Mazboudi was threatened and beaten. Another Al-Jadeed journalist Rona al-Halabi and two cameramen were attacked by a group of unidentified men whilst covering clashes near the northern road of al-Abdanear Tripoli on 20 May. Similarly, a news crew from Russia Today were attacked and had their equipment destroyed on 17 May.

Moscow radio host stabbed after “anti-Muslim” comments

Moscow journalist Sergei Aslanyan was stabbed repeatedly earlier this week. Anslanyan, who specialises in motoring and hosts a programme on state Mayak radio station, was attacked on 29 May after a stranger called him and asked to leave his apartment “for a talk”. Aslanyan was attacked as he left the house. He managed to call an ambulance himself, and is now in a stable condition in hospital, where he is under police guard.

Some of Aslanyan’s colleagues believe the attack was caused by comments about the prophet Muhammad he made on a radio station. Sergei Arkhipov, head or radio at VGTRK state holding, which owns Mayak radio,  said Aslanyan heard his attacker say “You dislike Allah”.

The Muslim society of Tatarstan had expressed concerns about Aslanyan’s anti-Muslim comments in an appeal to Russia’s general prosecutor’s office. After the journalist was attacked, they condemned both the assault and premature conclusions about “Muslim trace” in the case. Their leader Rishat Khamidullin told journalists that Aslanyan was treated brutally and “such an attack after his insulting statements is no more than a provocation against the Muslims”.

Attacks on journalists are common in Russia. In April Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina was beaten near her house. In May three journalists of Novaya Gazeta branch in Ryazan were beaten. Another newspaper’s reporter, Diana Khachatryan, alleged she was threatened by pro-Kremlin youth movements after publishing an article about the United Russia congress.

The latest most scandalous attacks on journalists include the beatings of Kommersant’s Oleg Kashin, and Khimki Truth’s Mikhail Beketov, and the murders of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova, who wrote columns for the same paper while working for Memorial human rights centre. In the vast majority of these cases, no one has been brough to justice.

Freedom House placed Russia at 172 out of 197 countries for press freedom this year.

Russia: Journalist attacked in Moscow

A Russian journalist has been hospitalised after being stabbed 20 times. Sergei Aslanyan from Radio Mayak, was lured out of his house by an anonymous caller who invited him for a chat at around midnight. The former presenter on Echo Moskvy,  Russia’s leading liberal radio station, was stabbed repeatedly in the chest, neck and arms. Local newspapers have suggested the attack was a result of a recent radio appearance, in which Aslanyan insulted the prophet Muhammad. The journalist remains in hospital, where his condition is believed to be stable.