We end 2023 on a dire note for journalists and press freedom. At least 65 journalists have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and ground raids since the start of the Israel-Gaza war just under three months ago. This is the largest number of journalists killed in such a short span of time in any modern war or conflict. Journalists inside Gaza, along with other civilians, are facing an unfolding humanitarian crisis, lacking access to food, water, medicine, and, at times, to communications.

IPI has consistently called on Israel to respect the rules of war, which obliges states to protect journalists and civilians in times of armed conflict. We continue to call on the international community to take urgent and concrete action to protect the rights of journalists to cover this war freely and safely, amid Israel’s relentless and indiscriminate assault on Gaza that has resulted in staggering and unacceptable civilian casualties and wide-scale devastation.

In other conflict zones from Ukraine to Sudan to Haiti, journalists navigate daily threats and dangerous conditions. As a result of rampant impunity for crimes against the press, journalists around the globe continue to be targeted for their watchdog work. Authoritarian regimes from Afghanistan to China deploy a range of tactics – including censorship, intimidation, harassment, and imprisonment – to create an atmosphere of fear. Private tech companies are amplifying threats, with unaccountable policies and practices that give governments vast and unchecked surveillance and censorship powers. Media outlets are increasingly vulnerable to capture by political and commercial interests, while laws to combat terrorism or cybercrime are being weaponized to restrict independent public interest journalism.

These threats are not confined to autocratic regimes. Journalists in established democracies are facing increased harassment and interference in their work. Despite many states professing to champion media freedom, too few translate these declarations into actions.

In 2023 we also saw some positive news, including by courts around the world that handed down key rulings in defense of press freedom and journalists’ rights. IPI Executive Board member and Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa was acquitted of trumped-up tax evasion charges and another baseless charge against her was dismissed. In South Africa, the country’s top court overturned a gag order against investigative outlet Amabhungane over its reporting on the Moti Group company based on leaked information. In Turkey, a court convicted the perpetrator and nine others linked to the 2022 murder of journalist Güngör Arslan, even as other cases of journalist killings there remain mired in impunity.

In the face of this global landscape, IPI remains as committed as ever to our mission of defending free press wherever it is threatened. For over seven decades we have been at the forefront of the fight for press freedom, independent journalism, and the safety of journalists across the globe – raising cases of physical and legal attacks against journalists, as well as cases of censorship, cyberattacks, surveillance, and media capture.

This year, we released more than 400 statements, calls, and articles on global threats to journalism. We headed press freedom missions, published country reports,  in-depth legal briefs, and addressed evolving challenges such as media capture, disinformation, and climate journalism.

Our program to support cross-border investigative journalism, IJ4EU, provided over 1.23 million euros to finance 50 investigations by hundreds of media outlets delving into the impacts of the climate crisis, the harrowing realities of human trafficking, and the intricate workings of international crime syndicates.

Amid the struggle for survival by independent media, IPI’s media innovation program supported 37 media organizations from 25 countries and four continents. We supported the development of novel revenue streams and audience-centric editorial products and the reshaping of organizational structures to increase efficiency. We facilitated global information sharing and support through various platforms, including newsroom visits, case studies, dedicated social media platforms, and flagship events like the annual IPI World Congress and the inaugural Media Innovation Festival in Vienna.

The 2023 IPI World Congress and Media Innovation Festival brought more than 300 journalists from around the world to Vienna. During two dynamic days of expert discussions and networking, we delved into the rapidly changing global and technological landscape for media, focusing on the threats and opportunities of AI for independent journalism. We came together to combat global threats to media freedom and honoured the unwavering resolve of Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui, who was named as the 2023 IPI-IMS World Press Freedom Hero. We also celebrated Myanmar Now as the 2023 IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer, recognizing the outlet’s courageous commitment to reporting amid the military junta’s crackdown.

The IPI network continues to flourish, and this year we proudly welcomed over 100 new members. These individuals and organizations have joined our network of more than 1,000 leading editors, publishers, journalists, and media freedom supporters from more than 100 countries. Solidarity, resilience, and support among our members, allies, and the wider community is one of our key strengths.

In 2024, with over 75 elections across the globe, we face an enormous challenge and a vital opportunity to fortify the integrity and resilience of a free and independent press as a cornerstone of democracy. Only together can we defend these freedoms.