November 2 is the United Nations International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
Over the past 10 years, a journalist is killed every four days and nine out of 10 killings go unpunished.
Killing a journalist is the ultimate form of censorship, and many more journalists around the world face kidnappings, torture, violence and harassment.
In Afghanistan, such violence and intimidation are reaching new heights, including widespread reports of journalists being killed as the Taliban took control of the country. Unifor is working tirelessly with other journalism organizations, including Journalists for Human Rights and the International Federation of Journalists, to get journalists and other media workers out of the country.
It doesn’t stop there.
Today online harassment and violence, specifically targeting women and racialized journalists, is occurring at an alarming and increasing rate.
This abuse takes many forms, including misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia, harassment, sexual harassment, violent threats, cyberstalking, doxing, trolling, gaslighting and misinformation. Threats of violence against the journalists and their families – including infant children – are all-too common.
Such deliberate acts are meant to bully journalists into silence, trying and failing to intimidate them from doing their jobs or covering the stories that people who perpetuate this violence don’t like.
Politicians such as former U.S. President Donald Trump and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier have even encouraged such behaviour, taking the harassment of journalists to an entirely new and disturbing level.
This can be tolerated no longer. For many years, reporters were told they just needed a thicker skin and should learn to live with the hate mail they received. It could even be part of the dark humour so common in newsrooms.
No longer. Journalists around the world, including here in Canada, have faced this abuse long enough. As more women and racialized workers joined newsrooms, the abuse targeting journalists has increased.
It is time for action. The journalists themselves are speaking out, and the media organizations they work for are beginning to address the issue in a real way, thanks in large part to the work of journalists and their unions.
All workers can and must do more.
Unifor is creating a plan that engages members and works in collaboration with a coalition of allies including the Canadian Association of Journalists to put an end to this abuse. Discussion, training, broad-based engagement, a concerted lobby effort to hold online platforms accountable for the content published on their websites and an enhanced support system for those who this violence will be the cornerstone of our approach to combat these issues.
Journalism is at the heart of our democracy. Attempts to silence it are nothing less than an attempt to thwart democracy itself – and cannot be tolerated.