The elements that endanger the safety of journalists’ work in 2021 can be summed up in four points.
Firstly, the shifting work conditions due to COVID-19– governments across the world adopted emergency regulations to punish alleged dissemination of false information, exposing journalists to the risk of severe criminal penalties for their reports in countries where there has been questionable handling of health information. In addition to this, as press conferences moved online, many journalists have faced challenges in gaining accreditations and accessing information.
Secondly, online harassment is the new frontline for journalists’ safety, especially affecting female professionals. A study by UNESCO found that journalists today are more at risk of privacy and security threats online and are targeted by disinformation campaigns to smear their character. A surge in online abuse and threats against journalists was seen in 2020, in many cases exacerbated by the inflammatory rhetoric of politicians, which are the third element that endangers the work of journalists. In countries like Brazil, where the cases of violence against journalists more than doubled, NGOs have determined that President Bolsonaro himself was the source of many hostilities, positioning 2020 as the most dangerous year for these professionals in Brazil.
Lastly, the decline of trust in media and democratic institutions brought by disinformation and polarization on social media has endangered the role of journalism in society.
María Jesús Prada is a Costa Rican journalist currently working as a video journalist in the Spanish newspaper, El País.
After graduating from Pepperdine University, she worked in the prime-time investigative journalism television show, 7-Días. During her time there, she won the international ESET award for an investigation focused on cyber-security in 2017. The data collected by this report is now archived in the Judicial Organism of Costa Rica as an academic resource. She was also certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel after winning a scholarship to become specialized in ‘Media for Peace in Conflict Zones’. While working in television, she also hosted a weekly radio show where she covered current affairs and interviewed important figures, such as the current president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado.
In 2019 she moved to Madrid, Spain, to pursue a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism of El País.