National outcry followed the reported hijacking of a young and prominent journalist from Belarus, who long feared the government would find a way to attack him.
26-year-old Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich was on a flight from Greece to Lithuania, where he had been seeking refuge, when the flight was ordered to drop down off course in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where Pratasevich was swiftly arrested.
This follows the protests last year in Belarus of President Lukashenko’s questionable election win. He has cracked down on public dissent, and his regime is increasingly authoritarian, still with the backing of Russia.
But that doesn’t mean that Belarus is entirely unique in its treatment of journalists. Journalists are at risk in many other areas too, including Palestine, Colombia, and even the U.S. The question still remains: is the world strong enough to stand up for them?
Are journalists globally under attack?
Journalists are the gatekeepers of complete truth. They are the guiders of instruction, and also the harbingers of danger.
For an authoritarian regime where the party in power is the state, journalists are perhaps their biggest enemy. They speak truth to power, as it is their jobs, and, as many see it, also their moral obligations.
So when an entire building carrying offices of the AP and Al Jazeera is shot down in Gaza, journalists and photographers are brutally attacked in the U.S., and most recently, a prominent journalist in Belarus is hijacked off of an airplane, warning signs must be cautioned.
Except we are also past the point of warning; people in power globally have understood the same basic premise for holding onto that power for generations: stop the journalists first.
This is not a new problem
People in power have always feared journalists. It is the reason former President Trump worked so hard to lambast the “fake news,” and only give special treatment and access to journalists who covered him favorably.
Not only have we seen journalists in danger before, but we have seen authoritarian leaders follow similar playbooks forever. The state can arrest anyone under suspicion of “treason,” “terrorism,” or simply still even, “posing a security risk.” The state gets to make the rules, and everyone else is forced to go along.
What journalists need is global condemnation of unfair treatment of them being under attack. They need governments brave and morally sound enough to threaten sanctions, or even military involvement if certain standards protecting journalists is not met.
The problem is, attacks against journalists happens in just about any country, so each can be called hypocritical for calling out others.
The murder and cover-up of Jamal Khashoggi stands as the most recent example, as the U.S.’ ties to Saudi Arabia caused them to not hold the state accountable, in what was seen pretty clearly as murder and also dismemberment of the Saudi Arabian journalist and dissident.
On World Press Freedom Day, rights advocates called for accountability and justice.
The journalists in Belarus and worldwide are still under attack. Where do we go from here?
It is hard to be optimistic about the safety of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich at the moment. It is hard to be optimistic about the state of journalism as a whole worldwide.
Where the hope does come, however, is in the brave and intrepid reporting seen daily from journalists across the globe. If you are a journalist, look at the reporters next to you, in front of you, behind you, and there is where you will see the hope to continue on.
Rome was not built in a day, and Rome was not destroyed in a day. The more and more people that speak on international human rights violations and the attacks on journalists, the more we can all work towards a equitable future.
People often ask, can journalists also be activists? Does the impartiality of standing up for a cause or people ruin the journalist’s credibility?
Objectivity is not the mission. Fairness is. Take a step back and examine what is right, and therein lies your answer. Our thoughts are with Pratasevich and all other journalists in danger worldwide.