IGOHR Commemorates the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights (IGOHR) joined the Press and Media Outlets around the world and the international community to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. This day is observed to shed light on the violence and crimes committed against journalists worldwide on a daily basis which negatively impacts the global rights to freedom of speech and opinion.
Journalists and media workers play a vital and essential role in our society. They serve in providing the public with first-hand information which is sometimes perceived by others as “embarrassing truths” or “unwanted opinions”. Such views about the information disseminated by these hardworking men and women have led to many being subjects of violent attacks and hundreds killed in their line of duty or for their work.
According to UNESCO and Press Freedom organizations, some 800 journalists have been killed between 2005 and 2015 for bringing information and news to the public of which sad to say only one out of ten of the killers is held accountable by law. Nine out of ten murders of journalists often go unpunished. In 2015 alone, 115 journalists were killed which makes it the second deadliest year for journalists in the last ten years with Arab states recording the highest number of killings (78 killings). This was largely due to the ongoing armed conflict in countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen.
Additionally, journalists face countless cases of restriction and vicious crimes that infringe on their rights and hinder them from delivering appropriate information. Some of these includes: intimidation, harassment (both online and offline), arbitrary detention, kidnapping and torture. Sadly, most of these crimes usually go uninvestigated and with impunity. Thus, there is a great need to protect journalists worldwide because such impunity will lead to more killings.
It is with respect to the extensive influence and effect of impunity, both to journalists and the society at large that the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013 and declared 2nd November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date was selected in commemorative memory of the slaying of two French journalists – Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont – in Mali on 2 November 2013. The day seeks to enlightened the general public on the violent crimes faced by journalists around the globe.
IGOHR stresses that the abduction and killing of journalists and media staffs during their activities is a gross violation of their rights as stated in international human rights laws, international treaties and conventions. It equally has a damaging effect on societies. With the killing of a journalist with impunity, it means less information will be provided to the public and many will fill remorseless in attacking and killing these media professionals. It is also imperative to protect journalists in armed conflicts so as to ensure their safety as well as their freedom to information.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The International Convention on Political and Civil Rights as well as the Fourth Geneva Conventions and it Additional Protocols all accentuate the fact that everyone has the right to freedom of expression and should not be arbitrary arrested or tortured for the same. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires both state agents and non-state actors to conduct an effective investigation into any alleged unlawful killing of journalists. Similarly, violent attacks, kidnapping, beheading, and arbitrary detentions carried out against journalists both in armed conflict zones and non- armed conflict may amount to war crimes and crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and offenders should be prosecuted in the court of justice.
Hence, in marking this day IGOHR calls on all governments must live up to their obligation to respect the rights of and protect all journalists working within their territory. They need to frame policies and implement legislations to ensure the safety of journalists in line with international human rights and humanitarian laws. Also, all governments have the obligation to treat all journalists and media workers covering events during armed conflict as civilians and should protect them accordingly so that they can carry out their activities in a safe and secure manner. All states have the duty to prioritize the safety of journalists and to formulate strategies to investigate and prosecute crimes committed against them. IGOHR further urges all states to systematically monitor and condemn all attacks against journalists and hold perpetrators accountable.