Protecting the safety of journalists and ensuring that crimes committed against them don't go unpunished is ever-more important in today's changing times in order to build transparent societies and keep citizens around the world informed, the United Nations said today marking the first-ever International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
“No journalist anywhere should have to risk their life to report the news,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the inaugural Day.
“A free and open press is part of the bedrock of democracy and development,” he added.
The date of 2 November was proclaimed in a resolution on the safety of journalists adopted by the UN General Assembly this past year, with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated to lead its implementation.
The date marks the assassination of two journalists – Gislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon – in Mali in 2013.
In the past 10 years, more than 700 journalists have been killed for doing their job, the Secretary-General said, noting that in just the past year, some 17 Iraqi journalists have been executed, while elsewhere many more have suffered from intimidation, death threats and violence. Moreover, nine out of 10 cases go unpunished, which he said only serves to embolden criminals.
“People are scared to speak out about corruption, political repression or other violations of human rights. This must stop,” Mr. Ban stressed, declaring: “By ending impunity, wee deepen freedom of expression and bolster dialogue…Together let us stand up for journalists. Let us stand up for justice.”
Echoing the Secretary-General's remarks, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, underscored in another statement that the vast majority of journalists are covering local stories and living in a climate of impunity. Such circumstances allow perpetrators to continue attacks without restraint, further crippling the free flow of information, and depriving society of sources of significant information.
The threat, she said, is grave: on average, one journalist is killed per week. “On this first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, I appeal to all governments to ensure a swift and thorough investigation every time a journalist is killed, and to all partners for stronger cooperation to enhance the safety of journalists,” she declared.
“Freedom of expression is a basic human right that is essential for human dignity, for the rule of law and for good governance,” Ms. Bokova underscored.
In his message on the Day, UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa called on Member States to take “all necessary measures” to promote a safe working environment for journalists and to prosecute crimes against them.
“For a safer world for journalists is a better world for all of us,” he said.
Several events are being held on 3 and 4 November to mark the International Day. These include a high-level panel discussion on 3 November in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) chamber at UN Headquarters in New York hosted by UNESCO and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, France, Greece and Tunisia.
A seminar and inter-regional dialogue will be held in Strasbourg, France, on 3 November, organised by UNESCO, the Council of Europe, Centre for Freedom of the Media, and European Lawyers Union.
On 4 November, the third UN Inter-agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity will be held, also in Strasbourg.
As part of national activities to commemorate the International Day, a forum is scheduled to take place on 3 November in Accra, Ghana, and a regional seminar will be held in Tunis, Tunisia, from 3-4 November.
In addition, Ms. Bokova will introduce the fourth Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity to UNESCO's Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which will take place from 20-21 November at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.