Impunity of crimes committed against journalists

"Freedom of expression and of the press are severely limited by murder, kidnapping, pressure, intimidation, the unjust imprisonment of journalists, the destruction of facilities, violence of any kind and impunity for perpetrators; such acts must be investigated promptly and punished harshly " (Declaration of Chapultepec, paragraph 4).

One of the major topics to be discussed will be dedicated to an extremely grave and disquieting problem: the majority of crimes committed against journalists and other media professionals remain unpunished. In the last 15 years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, about 85% of all journalists’ murderers faced neither investigation nor prosecution for their crimes. “Even when murders were more fully investigated and some convictions obtained, the masterminds were brought to justice in just seven percent of the cases”.

Especially in conflict-ridden countries, justice for murders is often not achieved since police and judicial systems do not function properly. Sometimes authorities are simply not interested in investigating the case, sometimes they deliberately seek to hide the truth by not allowing investigation into the matter. Impunity also affects combat-related deaths of journalists. CPJ analyzed 22 cases in which family or colleagues sought investigations into the matter. “In 14 of those cases, either no action was taken or results were not made public. Investigations exonerated soldiers in the eight other cases.”

Murder, imprisonment and threats against journalists constitute a grave violation against the freedom of expression – and thus also threaten the foundations of democracy. Impunity only makes the situation worse. As long as perpetrators know that they will not be held accountable for the crimes they committed, journalists remain easy targets.

In 1997, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted a resolution condemning violence against journalists. It aims at sensitizing governments, international and regional organisations on this topic and thus tries to fight against the existing culture of impunity. It would be good to review with all of the professional partners the efforts that have been made and the structures that have been built up in order to implement this resolution.


RESOLUTION 29 "Condemnation of violence against journalists"
General Conference 29th Session, Paris, November 1997

Security Council condemns attacks against journalists in conflict situations, unanimously adopting Resolution 1738 (2006)
Security Council 5613th Meeting

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