A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, warned on Tuesday that “when the free press erodes, democratic erosion almost always follows.”
He spoke at a United Nations event honoring the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, at a time when fatal attacks on journalists have increased — especially in the war in Ukraine and in Latin America — and a record number have been imprisoned, according to a watchdog group.
The day’s program, at the U.N. General Assembly Hall, was also scheduled to include an address by Almar Latour, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal. World Press Freedom Day is officially observed on Wednesday.
The Times, The Journal and other news organizations have taken a stand against Russia’s detention of the American reporter Evan Gershkovich, 31. Previously employed by The Times, Mr. Gershkovich became a Moscow-based correspondent for The Journal in 2022.
He was detained in late March while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, swiftly returned to the Russian capital and charged with espionage, accusations that the United States considers bogus. A full-page ad in The Journal, The Times and The Washington Post last week said Mr. Gershkovich’s arrest was “the latest in a disturbing trend where journalists are harassed, arrested or worse for reporting the news.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog group, reported that at least 67 journalists and media workers were killed in 2022. That was the highest number since 2018 and an almost 50 percent increase from 2021, it said.
The committee attributed the increase to the high number of journalists killed while covering the war in Ukraine and “a sharp rise” in killings in Latin America, where, according to the committee’s president, Jodie Ginsberg, “Covering politics, crime, and corruption can be equally or more deadly than covering a full-scale war.”
Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the killings of 14 journalists and media workers have been confirmed there, the committee said. The most recent was the Ukrainian journalist Bogdan Bitik, who was shot and killed on Wednesday while working with the Italian daily La Repubblica alongside an Italian correspondent, Corrado Zunino, who was injured.
The committee is investigating the circumstances of two other journalists’ deaths in Ukraine to determine if they were work-related.
So far in 2023, nine journalists and media workers have been killed around the world, including six confirmed deaths directly tied to the journalists’ work. The journalist or media worker was murdered, killed in a crossfire or in combat, or while on a dangerous assignment, the committee said.
Detaining journalists is even more common. As of Dec. 1, 2022, the committee found that 363 reporters were behind bars — a new global high that surpassed the previous year’s record by 20 percent.
The committee described the figure as “another grim milestone in a deteriorating media landscape.”
Robert Mahoney, the group’s director of special projects, on Monday noted that independent journalism once blossomed globally as the internet eroded state control of information and the press and introduced publishing freedoms.
That later shifted as governments gained new technologies to use as tools of censorship and surveillance, he wrote, adding: “Journalism needs democracy and rule of law to thrive. It is now losing both.”
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