Safety of journalists
IPDC plays an important role in monitoring the safety of journalists and in preventing the impunity of those who perpetrate crimes against them. Guaranteeing media professionals the right to work free from the threat of violence is essential for the full implementation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It is a duty of the State and of society to create and maintain the conditions needed for these fundamental human rights to be enjoyed by all.
UNESCO’s Director-General began condemning the killings of journalists in 1997, in line with Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference which urges the competent authorities to discharge their duty of preventing, investigating and punishing crimes when these are perpetrated to prevent freedom of expression but also the right of other people to receive information, and remedying their consequences.
In 2006, the safety of journalists was the subject of a thematic debate conducted during the twenty fifth session of the Intergovernmental Council of the IPDC. Two years later, at its 26th session, the UNESCO Director-General presented the first report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity to the IPDC Intergovernmental Council as a follow-up to the thematic debate.
At this meeting, the Council adopted a Decision on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which gives to IPDC a central role in monitoring the follow-up of killings condemned by UNESCO’s Director-General. This Decision urges Member States “to comply with the relevant obligations under international law to end impunity” and “to inform the Director-General of UNESCO, on a voluntary basis, of the actions taken to prevent the impunity of the perpetrators and to notify him of the status of the judicial inquiries conducted on each of the killings condemned by UNESCO”.
Since then, every two years the Director-General of UNESCO submits to the IPDC Council a report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity as a monitoring tool for follow-up.
The continual killing of journalists is a disturbing reality
The Report presented to the IPDC Council at its 27th session in March 2010 concerns the 2008-2009 biennium. During this period, UNESCO condemned the murder of 123 journalists, a tally comparable to 2006-2007 when the Organization had reported and condemned 122 murders. However, a noteworthy evolution in 2008-2009 is that the percentage of killings not linked to conflict situations has dramatically increased. The report highlights that at least 80% of the deaths were due to attacks specifically targeting the victims: “The great majority of casualties in 2008-2009 were not international war correspondents but local journalists working in their own countries, mostly in peacetime, covering local stories”.
As for the action taken by Member States with regard to these killings, out of the 29 countries and territories concerned by the killings of journalists condemned in 2006-2007, fifteen provided detailed information on judicial follow-up.
In 2010, the IPDC Council unanimously adopted the second Decision on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity reiterating its request for governments to report to the UNESCO Director-General on their investigations into the killings of journalists. This Decision also requests the General Conference of UNESCO to encourage news rooms around the world to observe one minute’s silence every year on World Press Freedom Day (3 May) to denounce the murders of journalists.