UN: UN calls for end of impunity for crimes against journalists

New York, US (PANA) - Warning that impunity for crimes against journalists is rampant, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called for immediate action to secure justice for journalists who have been attacked or killed and for concrete steps by all governments to ensure media professionals are guaranteed space to operate free from harassment and intimidation.

In a message marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Ban said: "I pay tribute to the courage of all media personnel who put their lives on the line for the sake of truth, and I call for immediate action to secure justice in cases where journalists were attacked, harassed or killed."

Every year, 2 November is observed as an opportunity to raise awareness about killings of journalists, of which 827 are known over the past 10 years, with only eight per cent of perpetrators held accountable.

Ban also called on all countries to recognize and commemorate the International Day, particularly where journalists were under greatest threat.

He said that marking the Day was essential to the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 16, on peace, justice and strong institutions.

On her part, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova said the agency has launched a series of events to tackle impunity and called for concerted action by governments in that direction.

She recalled a quote by late US civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects one directly affects all indirectly", to emphasize the severe implications of a culture of impunity.

She noted that each year UNESCO releases a report with the latest facts and figures about the violence around the world towards journalists.

According to the UNESCO report, 2015 was the second deadliest year since 2006. Further, 115 journalists were killed, including the 10 media workers murdered in the unprecedented attack against the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris.

"In addition to killings, journalists are kidnapped, arbitrarily detained, tortured, intimidated and harassed, both on and offline. Freelance journalists are more vulnerable, as they often work without adequate protections that large media outlets provide.

"While the overwhelming majority of journalists who are murdered are men, this should not obscure the fact that women journalists face additional risks: gender-based threats, harassment, intimidation, violence and rape," Ms. Bokova said.

The UNESCO chief disclosed that regionally, the majority of killings (36.5 per cent) occurred in the Arab States, largely due to ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

Latin America and the Caribbean were second, with 51 journalists killed between 2014 and 2015, and Asia and the Pacific accounting for 16 per cent of killings.

She also said that 90 per cent worldwide were local journalists, although 2014 saw a rise in the killing of foreign journalists.

Ms. Bokova called for new mobilization efforts to implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, saying: "We must accelerate the pace."

"I encourage everyone to stand with UNESCO in condemning ever fatal attack against a journalist, in calling for full investigation of such crimes, in demanding appropriate punishment for those committing these violations," she added.

Earlier this year, UNESCO sent letters to 62 member states regarding the killings of journalists from 2006 to 2015, for which the agency had no record indicating that the cases had been solved.

It said these requests accounted for 784 of the 827 murders. Of the 62 member States contacted, 40 responded and 32 provided concrete information on the status of judicial investigations. Also, 22 member states have still not replied.

The agency has also launched a campaign, titled: "My Killers Are Still Free", which shares the audio testimonies of close relatives, colleagues and lawyers of journalists who have been killed.

The UN has adopted resolutions to promote journalists’ safety and end impunity and UNESCO is working with governments, non-governmental organizations, professional associations and journalists to strengthen judicial capacities and ensure safety mechanisms.
-0-  PANA  AA/AR  2Nov2016

02 november 2016 19:01:07

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