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The head of the United Nations has called on governments and the international community to protect journalists and media workers at a time when attacks on the media have become “the new normal”.

Secretary-General António Guterres issued the call to action in a speech to the Association of United Nations Correspondents.

In just over a decade, more than a thousand journalists had been killed while carrying out their work, with nine out of ten cases unresolved, said Guterres.

“Many thousands more [journalists] have been attacked, harassed, detained or imprisoned on spurious charges, without due process. This is outrageous. This should not become the new normal.

“When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price. And I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity.

“No democracy is complete without press freedom. Nor can any society be fair and impartial without journalists who investigate wrongdoing and speak truth to the power…

“Journalism and the media are essential to peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights for all – and to the work of the United Nations.”

On efforts to protect journalists made by the UN itself, Gutteres pointed to its system-wide strategy to “support the environment journalists need to perform their vital work” under the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

2 November has been designated as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, and UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations are “stepping up their work” in Media and Information Literacy, to help people “detect disinformation, counter hate-speech and defend media freedom”, Guterres said.

The UN monitors violence against journalists through the observatory of killed journalists run by UNESCO. It has recorded 1,318 journalists killed since records began in 1993.

Read the full speech.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)