UNESCO calls for ending impunity for crimes against journalists

Journalists are essential to preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression, set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the words of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, it is a journalist’s job to “speak truth to power”. However, this comes at a heavy price.

UNESCO recorded a global impunity rate of 87% for the killing of journalists between 2006 and 2020. This rate indicates that the majority of these cases are not speedily investigated and prosecuted.

To build awareness on the issue, a regional on-line event took place on the theme “Ensuring a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers” on 3 November 2021, the International Day for Ending Impunity (IDEI) for Crimes Against Journalists.

The event was organized by UNESCO New Delhi and the Delegation of the European Union for Sri Lanka and Maldives, with the support of the Ministry of Mass Media of Sri Lanka, The Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO and the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

UNESCO has published the ‘Global Toolkit for Judicial Actors’ and ‘Guidelines for Prosecutors on Cases of Crimes against Journalists’ to strengthen international legal standards on freedom of expression, access to information and journalists’ safety.

The country presentations including recommendations were made on a variety of important topics related to the safety of journalists and freedom of expression by senior media specialists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka- and included draft recommendations from Nepal and Maldives.

The speakers unanimously supported the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity which is the result of a process that began in 2010 upon request of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

Ending impunity for crimes against journalists is one of the most pressing issues to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information for all citizens. Between 2006 and 2020, over 1,200 journalists have been killed around the world, with close to 9 out of 10 cases of these killings remaining judicially unresolved, according to the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists.

 

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