Media Defence has launched its 2022 annual report, marking the end of a pivotal year for freedom of expression.
The year 2022 has presented us with a worrying decline in press freedom. In response to their work, journalists around the world have faced legal harassment, intimidation, and other forms of persecution by those seeking to silence them. Over the last couple of years, journalists have been targeted in ways ranging from criminal charges to tax fraud allegations, from blocking content to violence or imprisonment.
In our annual report, we reflect on the deteriorating global climate for journalists. Moreover, we outline the work that we and others carried out to improve this climate. Using infographics, case studies, statistics, and interviews with beneficiaries, we hope to illustrate the crucial role Media Defence plays in protecting media freedom globally.
Last year was both a challenging and successful year for Media Defence, as we continued our 2020 – 2024 strategy period. Our number of active cases in 2022 was 543 cases, of which 188 were new, in 82 countries. We also supported 59 new strategic cases and distributed 18 new partner grants, improving the legal context for journalists in the long-term.
“Though the situation for press freedoms is distressing, I am heartened by the
bravery and resilience demonstrated by the journalists and media outlets we
support. They work tirelessly to expose corruption and human rights abuses,
despite great personal risk. It is thanks to their determination and sacrifice that
communities around the world have any access to independent information. We
will continue to do all we can to protect them.”
– Sarah Bull, Chair of the Board of Trustees
“We have come a long way, but a chilling effect still hovers over independent journalists, bloggers, and media outlets. Inasmuch as we celebrate being able to help a greater number of journalists and media outlets, we cannot ignore the fact that journalism is facing more legal threats and violence than ever before.”
– Carlos Gaio, CEO
The global threat to journalism
86 journalists and media workers were killed around the world in 2022. This high number is in part due to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Many journalists covering the war have been killed, injured, and systematically attacked. This highlights the grave risks that journalists face while doing their work.
In 2022, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) continued to pose a significant threat to journalists who report on the wealthy and powerful. SLAPP-related cases accounted for 41% of our caseload in 2022.
Moreover, journalists around the world have experienced increased digital surveillance. In particular, investigative journalists uncovering corruption, abuse of power, and human rights violations are victims of rampant surveillance and often illegal collection and abuse of personal data. We have also seen a number of states engaging in social media blocking, which has become a popular method of suppressing dissent and critical reporting on governments.
About Media Defence
We are committed to defending journalists under threat for their reporting, and improving the context in which they work. Moreover, we are unique in what we do. To date, we are the only organisation in the world focusing solely on providing legal defence to independent media. Heading into the third year of our strategy period, we will continue investing in our role as a capacity-builder. This means funding more partners globally, training lawyers, and developing our resources.
To view the full report, please click here.
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