Protect journalists. Keep the truth alive.

18 February 2021

Nearly 1,200 journalists have been killed between 2006 and 2019. That’s an average of one death every four days. Worse yet, the killers go unpunished in 90% of cases.

Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and judicial systems. The work of journalists protects us all, from exposing corruption and election fraud to deciphering vital health information amidst a global pandemic. Truth is vital to a functioning democracy.

UNESCO launched a global multimedia campaign on the International Day to End Impunity Against Journalists – last November 2020 – to pay tribute to journalists’ unwavering commitment to reporting the truth as they see it and call on authorities everywhere to bring the cases of murdered journalists to justice. In addition to a wide range of engaging, visually-led social media content, UNESCO co-hosted the World Press Freedom Conference (WPFC) in a new, innovative format, merging digital and in-person elements.

The campaign raised awareness about the gravity of these attacks, which target freedom of expression and constitute a brutal and illegal form of censorship. Content focused on how important journalists’ work is, the need to strengthen the judiciary’s role in investigating and prosecuting crimes and attacks against journalists, and remembering journalists who have been killed for their work.

For example, Rooftop produced the video below to honor the memory of Indian video journalist Achyutananda Sahu. Sahu who was killed by a militant group in 2018 while covering local elections in Chhattisgarh, one of four Indian states that have been the scene of a Maoist insurgency in the past few decades.

In Slovakia, Jan Kuciak was investigating tax fraud and corruption associated with individuals close to the ruling political party. He filed a criminal complaint that went ignored. “It has been 44 days since I filed a criminal complaint…for the threats. And the case probably does not even have a particular cop,” Jan Kuciak wrote on his Facebook page in October 2017. Just a few months later, he and his wife were murdered.

In Mexico, Pamela Montenegro was reporting on local politics and organized crime, helping citizens make an informed choice at the voting booth. She also ran a satirical YouTube channel and magazine, in which she made fun of local politicians. She was killed in 2018 after receiving numerous threats. Her case remains unsolved.

By sharing their stories, the campaign was able convey the importance of protecting journalists and highlight the critical role they play in their communities. We leveraged support from key influential journalists from around the world – including Jorge Ramos, Maria Ressa, Dr. Julie Posetti, Christiane Amanpour and Hamid Mir – to reach niche audiences and bolster the campaign’s credibility. Moreover, the international community, UNESCO partners, world leaders and an array of global digital media outlets amplified the campaign.

Rooftop supported UNESCO with targeted and structured marketing tactics to increase engagement and awareness around the campaign, which ultimately contributed to the success of the campaign: the English campaign video was the most viewed video ever on UNESCO’s Twitter channel​. Campaign content and messages, through #EndImpunity and #ProtectJournalists, received a total of 43K global mentions (media articles & social media posts).​ UNESCO channels – including language and country accounts – posted 350 times. #EndImpunity and #ProtectJournalists generated around 30K engagements on UNESCO’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels.​ UNESCO content directly reached 3M people on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels.​

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Henry Fersko

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