Cycle of impunity must end, Ban declares on International Day, honouring journalists killed in line of duty

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

2 November 2015 – Marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is honouring journalists and media workers who were killed in the line of duty for merely ‘reporting the truth’ and is underscoring the importance of protecting their rights and ensuring they can report freely.

“More than 700 journalists have been killed in the last decade – one every five days – simply for bringing news and information to the public. Many perish in the conflicts they cover so fearlessly. But all too many have been deliberately silenced for trying to report the truth,” said Mr. Ban in a message on the second World Day.

Noting that only 7 per cent of cases involving crimes against journalists are resolved and less that one crime out of 10 is ever fully investigated, he stressed that such impunity deepens fear among journalists and enables Governments to get away with censorship.

“We must do more to combat this trend and make sure that journalists can report freely. Journalists should not have to engage in self-censorship because they fear for their life,” said the UN chief.

Mr. Ban urged collective action to end the cycle of impunity and safeguard the right of journalists to speak truth to power.

Echoing the sentiment, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that she has consistently and publicly condemned each killing of a journalist and called for a thorough investigation.

“In the past six years, I have publicly and unequivocally condemned more than 540 cases of killings of journalists, media workers and social media producers who generate significant amounts of journalism,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement.

“The near complete impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against journalists goes against everything that we stand for, our shared values, our common objectives,” she added.

Ms. Bokova stressed that each time the perpetrator of a crime is allowed to escape punishment, it emboldens other criminals and creates a vicious cycle of violence. Further, she warned that as attacks on journalists are on the rise, UNESCO has spearheaded the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which is working to end impunity by promoting concerted action among United Nations agencies, working across the world with governments, civil society, academia and the media itself.

“This work is bearing fruit,” she said. “The United Nations General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, as well as the United Nations Security Council have all adopted landmark resolutions specifically addressing these obstacles – as has the Council of Europe at the regional level,” added Ms. Bokova.

She further said that more and more States are now establishing laws and mechanisms to tackle impunity and improve safety of journalists and added that the judiciary systems and security forces have increased their engagement on the issues.

However, Ms. Bokova stressed that efforts must be redoubled to ensure the end of impunity for attacks on journalists, especially since societies are undergoing transformation at present.

She stressed that this must be necessitated to uphold Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Additionally, Ms. Bokova underscored that ensuring protection of journalists is also vital for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16.10, which aims to facilitate public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

Lastly, she urged all countries to take measures through legislation, protection mechanisms and new sources to ensure that investigations and trials relating to crimes against journalists are undertaken.

“I urge everyone to stand up on November 2 and demand that the rule of law is fully applied when journalists are attacked and killed in the line of duty,” Ms. Bokova concluded.

The International Day, was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to highlight the urgent need to protect journalists, and to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November, 2013.


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