Two ranking measures – the World Press Freedom Index 2021 and African Media Barometer publications – indicate that journalists globally continued to face multiple challenges. These included intimidation, physical or online harassment, surveillance, disappearance, threats, arbitrary arrests, assaults, and lack of access to public facilities, authorities or data.
Reporters Without Borders reported that 50 journalists from around the world died in the course of duty. Their deaths were linked to investigative stories about corruption, misuse of public funds, organised crime, and the coverage of protests.
These assaults on press freedom occurred within the COVID-19 pandemic, which compounded existing problems. In Kenya, the first COVID-19 case was announced in March 2020. Since then about 600 journalists have been retrenched. Many have endured pay cuts, and others long delays in salary payment.
A September 2020 report published by Article 19, a human rights organisation that promotes freedom of expression, indicated that at least 48 journalists had been attacked or restrained from doing their work during the pandemic.
The various reports and rankings measure the degree of freedom available to traditional journalists working in established media outlets. They show that mainstream media houses have been hardest hit by these challenges.
This has opened up space for other media workers to report the news and create content. There is an emerging group of citizens, activists, experts, and independent journalists who have become an alternative source of credible, useful information.
In these difficult times, this is refreshingly good news.