» Calling for concrete actions on the Safety of Journalists, UN and partners mark the Day to End Impunity
31.10.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Calling for concrete actions on the Safety of Journalists, UN and partners mark the Day to End Impunity

On 27 October 2016, together with the Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations, UNESCO organized an Interactive Panel discussion on “Safety of Journalists and Ending Impunity in Conflict Situations” at the UN Headquarters in New York on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (2 November).

The event’s Concept Note is accessible here.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Catherine Boura, Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN, recalled the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163,  adopted in 2013, which proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ (IDEI) and urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. This Resolution was followed by UNGA Resolutions A/RES/69/185 (2014) and A/RES/70/162 (2015), reinforcing the commitment to ensure the safety of journalists and end Impunity.  The UN Security Council has also passed two resolutions on the issue (S/RES/1738(2006) and S/RES/2222(2015)) tackling more specifically conflict-related situations.

Mr Frank La Rue, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, relayed some key findings of the Report of UNESCO’s Director-General on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity. The Report provides an analysis of the killings of journalists condemned by UNESCO’s DG in 2014-2015, and highlights trends over the last decade. These last ten years, 827 journalists lost their lives for informing the public and only 8% of killings have been reportedly resolved; the unacceptably high rate of impunity (92% of all cases) perpetuates a cycle of violence by emboldening perpetrators to continue.

The Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish, President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE) and 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Laureate, emphasized that it is high time for the international community to apply into practice the normative instruments and tools now available for the protection of journalists. Calling for a more practical approach to the issue, Mr Darwish underlined the inadmissibility of the rate of impunity for the persecutors of these crimes stating that people have lost hope in Human Rights’ value and in their justice system.

Ms Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) echoed the call for concerted action by Member States, pointing out that 40% of journalists killed receive threats before-hand and thus, more preventive action can be undertaken. She went over compelling statistics and data compiled by CPJ, based on which recommendations can be drawn towards concrete actions and cautionary measures to be taken by Member States and their judicial systems or law enforcement.

Drawing from a personal experience filled with sufferance that has driven action, Mr Abdalaziz Alhamza, a Syrian citizen-journalist who has been awarded the CPJ’s 2015 International Press Freedom Award, told his shocking and moving tale of courage and dedication to the principle of freedom of expression. He co-founded “Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently”, an information campaign launched by a group of non-violent activists to expose the atrocities committed toward the civilian population of the Syrian city Raqqa. A number of his colleagues and friends as well as their family members have been killed for the work they have been carrying out. Mr Alhamza reinforced the call to move towards action and start bringing practical solutions to the problem. “Enough speeches”, he said.

Underscoring how free and independent media is a cornerstone of democracy, representatives from Lithuania, France, and Latvia, spoke of the benefits of uniting efforts such as within the recently created Member States’ Group of Friends for Safety of Journalists. “Normative frameworks exist, we now need practical measures, we need to deliver,” said the representative from France.

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