This morning over 350 media organizations across the US will publish editorials on press freedom in response to President Trump’s concerted efforts to attack them. As an anti-corruption campaign group, investigative journalism is at the heart of what we do and we stand in solidarity with all of them.
An independent, free press is fundamental to the fight against corruption. It is no surprise to us that journalists are in Trump’s line of fire. They’re the people who are holding him accountable as he travels to his own resorts on state business, filling his companies’ bank accounts with tax-payers’ money in the process. They’re the people giving the women who have allegedly survived his abuse a voice to speak back. They’re the people showing the world that children are living in cages as a result of his snap policy decisions.
At Global Witness we have seen these attacks on the press all over the world. In Cambodia, the clamp down on journalists is so extreme that we can only use Facebook to tell the Cambodian people what we are discovering about their President and his friends and family. Just two years ago the political commentator Kem Ley was brutally murdered in broad daylight following an interview where he criticized the ruling elite’s business interests.
And the stakes are becoming increasingly high in Europe too. In October, Panama Papers journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered with a car-bomb, mid-way through an investigation into corruption in Malta, her home country. Four months later Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were shot dead in their home while Kuciak wrote a story about money laundering and drug smuggling.
In Niger we’ve seen journalists imprisoned without charge for criticizing a finance law that benefits major corporations, while just this week in Nigeria the government froze the bank account of a journalist who refused to disclose the source of his stories into the police service.
When journalists are silenced the voices of civil society go unheard. This year was the deadliest on record for land and environment defenders; many of the people we lost had been forced to become citizen journalists to get the truth about their situations known.
The out-going UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, described Trump’s campaign against the US media as “very close to incitement of violence”. We have to learn the lessons from the rest of the world and take this seriously.
No journalist should ever have to put their life on the line to expose corruption and injustice.