Impunity for the killers of journalists continues unabated at nearly 80% worldwide
Full justice achieved in fewer than 5% of cases since 1992
New York, October 31, 2023—No one has been brought to justice in nearly 80% of the 261 cases of journalists murdered in retaliation for their work in the past decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2023 Impunity Index, a tally of countries where journalists are murdered and perpetrators elude justice.
“As journalist murders continue to go unpunished in nearly 80% of cases globally, in both democracies and authoritarian countries, the message is clear: journalists are fair game,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg. “Murder is the ultimate form of censorship. Swift, transparent, independent local investigations are critical, and political will can change the course of justice to stem the pervasive impunity in cases of journalists killed for their work.”
For the first time, the index includes Haiti, listed at third place amid the country’s mounting security crisis, which has been aggravated by pervasive gang violence and political instability under a caretaker government, and further exacerbated by a series of natural disasters. In such a perilous environment, journalists are forced to work in a climate of almost total lawlessness, afraid of being targeted for their reporting and often terrified into self-censorship.
Syria, which has been on CPJ’s index for a decade, reached number one as the country with the worst impunity record globally. Somalia, reaching its 16th year on the index, is the world’s second-worst offender. All of the top three countries on the index are unstable and plagued with violence. Nonetheless, impunity is also continuously present in functional democracies such as Brazil, Mexico, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
CPJ’s index, released in the leadup to the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2, shows the ubiquity of impunity. Somalia, Iraq, Mexico, the Philippines, Pakistan, and India have been on the index every year since its inception in 2008. Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Brazil also have become continuous fixtures—a sobering reminder of the persistence of impunity.
The countries on CPJ’s 2023 Global Impunity Index:
By the numbers: CPJ’s 2023 global impunity index
|Index rank 2023||Country||Unsolved murders||Population |
|Years on index|
The index charts the prevailing challenges to deliver justice for journalists killed in direct reprisal for their reporting. Beyond the indexed decade, CPJ research further underscores the entrenched nature of impunity. Since 1992, CPJ has found that full justice—where all the perpetrators have been convicted—has only been achieved for 47 murdered journalists, which is fewer than 5% of cases.
Yet changes to a country’s internal politics and international pressure can help engender accountability. This was the case for Peruvian journalist Hugo Bustíos Saavedra, who was murdered in 1988. It took nearly 35 years for a former Peruvian army intelligence chief to be sentenced for perpetrating his murder.
As an early collaborator on the U.N. plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, CPJ renews its calls for action by governments to tackle impunity. Together with other civil society groups, CPJ continues to call on governments to ensure or boost funding and training for dedicated units to investigate crimes against the press.
Where national safety mechanisms exist—such as Mexico and Brazil—governments must provide appropriate funding and training, while optimizing and tailoring these plans as security and justice patterns shift or fail to make progress. Similarly, countries committed to media freedom should prioritize well-coordinated diplomatic efforts that center journalist safety.
About the Committee to Protect Journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.
Note to Editors:
CPJ’s Global Impunity Index calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population. The 2023 index examines journalist murders that occurred between September 1, 2013, and August 31, 2023, for which no convictions have been obtained. Only countries with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index. Read more about our methodology here.
Journalists killed in the Israel-Hamas war that began on October 7, 2023, are not included here because their deaths fall outside of the 10-year index period. CPJ is continuously documenting these deaths and calling for the protection of journalists, who are civilians, must be protected and should never be targeted. The index is published alongside features highlighting 12 countries showing the ways that impunity impacts journalists in countries beyond those on the list.
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