Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity

Press freedom, safety of journalists and impunity will be the topics of UNESCO World Press Freedom Day 2007. Due to the 10th anniversary of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, this year’s World Press Freedom Day will be celebrated in the city of Medellin, Colombia.

The murder of Guillermo Cano, director of the Colombian daily newspaper “El Espectador,” is significant as regards unpunished crimes against journalists. Guillermo Cano Isaza was assassinated on December 17, 1986 in front of the newspaper’s exit in Bogota by two hired killers. Cano was a victim of drug trafficking mafias, which he fearlessly denounced and about whose harmful effects on Colombian society he cautioned. The magistrates in charge of the investigation became the objects of threats and bribes, with some being murdered for rejecting such bribes. The life of Guillermo Cano, his courage, his commitment to independent journalism and the tenacity with which he fought for his country are an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Today, 21 years after the death of Guillermo Cano, violence against media professionals and their institutions remains one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression and press freedom. According to Reporters Without Borders, 75 journalists and 32 media staff have been killed last year making 2006 the deadliest year on record. “Journalism today is more dangerous than ever. More than 500 journalists have been killed in the past decade, often for simply doing their jobs. These murders are a direct attack not only on individuals, but also on society as a whole. Yet few of the killers are ever brought to justice” Timothy Balding, CEO of the World Association of Newspapers stated in October 2006.

At this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebration, UNESCO invites all participants to discuss the rising challenges to the safety of media professionals, identify the specific dangers journalists face when working in conflict areas, consider the problem of impunity with regard to attacks on journalists, and explore measures that can be taken to improve the safety of journalists.

 

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