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Creating a safe environment for journalists

Mar 30, 2010

The safety of Journalists and the Risk of Impunity was released on the occasion of the meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of the IPDC at UNESCO. It stresses that the absence of threat is essential to protect the right of journalists for them to provide information without fear.

The safety of journalists and the risk of impunity

Publisher: UNESCO, 2010

It is an obligation of the State and of the society to create and maintain the conditions needed for these fundamental human rights to be enjoyed by all. Therefore, the possibility for journalists to carry out their journalistic investigations and report without fear of reprisal should be guaranteed by both state and non-state actors.

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Member States must therefore take a firm stance to prevent the murders of journalists and to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes and acts of violence against media professionals and associated personnel are duly prosecuted.

In 2008-2009, UNESCO condemned the murder of 125 journalists, a tally comparable to the previous period - 2006-2007 - when the Organization had reported 122 murders. At least 80% of these deaths are due to attacks specifically targeting the victims, emphasizes the report: “in particular deliberate attacks by those who do not wish journalists to investigate and reveal information of public interest.”

However, when the figures are analysed on an annual basis, last year set a new record with 77 murders reported by UNESCO in 2009, exceeding the previous record in 2006 (69 deaths), a period when violence in Iraq was omnipresent. Moreover, the major reductions recorded in 2007 (53 murders reported) and in 2008 (48), were largely due to the improvement of the situation in Iraq.

As for the peak seen in 2009, it can be partly explained by the murder of approximately 30 journalists in only one day, in an ambush in the Philippines on 23 November 2009. This exceptional event has put the country at the top of the list, with 37 murders targeting journalists, ahead of Iraq, where the number of victims fell from 62 to 15 between 2006-2007 and 2008-2009.

Another significant development in 2008-2009, as noted in the report, is that the percentage of murders not linked to conflict situations considerably increased compared to 2006-2007. The great majority of the victims were not foreign war correspondents but local journalists who were generally working on issues of local interest in countries at peace. In the great majority of cases (95%), the victims were men.

The report therefore states, “Sadly, the frequency of acts of violence against journalists is increasing. In most cases, impunity precludes the way of justice, and if this trend prevails, journalists will remain easy targets. Needless to say this represents a severe threat to freedom of expression and to our ability to seek the truth.”

During its 27th session, the Intergovernmental Council of the IPDC will consider the draft decision recommending that the IPDC continue monitoring the follow-up of killings condemned by UNESCO’s Director-General. It also invites the UNESCO General Conference to propose that a one-minute silence be observed in newsrooms worldwide on World Press Freedom Day (3 May) to honour the journalists killed each year.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has stressed that “only the political will of States to bring to justice the murderers of journalists and thus put an end to impunity will, finally, be the best protection for press professionals.”

Source : UNESCO
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