The United Nations General Assembly declared November 2 the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
The resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 2013 not only condemns all attacks on journalists, but also urges all member countries to protect journalists from threats to their lives and to ensure that victims have access to necessary remedies.
In addition, the United Nations calls on countries to empower journalists by providing them with a safe and secure atmosphere to do their work without any outside interference.
This year, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists focuses on the key aspect of prosecution services. This includes a thorough investigation and prosecution not only of the killings, but also of all kinds of threats of violence against journalists.
The murder of a journalist is not the only issue discussed today, but it goes beyond and also speaks of threats of violence, kidnapping, torture, harassment and harassment online. Women journalists are the most common targets of online harassment.
These dangers hinder a journalist’s work and create an environment where ideas and words cannot flow freely. This is the reason why such a day is necessary to protect and empower media professionals around the world.
62 journalists killed in 2020
In 2020 alone, according to the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, which works to protect media workers, 62 journalists were killed simply for doing their job. Between 2006 and 2020, more than 1,200 professionals lost their lives in the same way. In nine out of ten cases, the killers go unpunished.
The report says journalists face countless threats, ranging from harassment to kidnappings and detentions. Citing an article published by UNESCO, the report also states that “73% of female journalists interviewed said they had been threatened, intimidated and insulted online in the course of their work”.
In the performance of their professional duties, they are often at risk of sexual assault, whether in the form of targeted sexual assault, often in retaliation for their work; mob-related sexual violence against journalists covering public events; or the sexual abuse of journalists in detention or captivity. Additionally, many of these crimes go unreported due to strong cultural and professional stigmas.
This year, due to statistics like these, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists highlights the important role of prosecution services, not only in bringing killers to justice, but also to pursue threats of violence.
In a message to mark the day on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that many journalists had lost their lives while covering conflicts, but the number of media workers killed outside the areas of conflict has increased in recent years.
“In many countries, the simple act of investigating corruption, trafficking, human rights violations or environmental issues puts the lives of journalists at risk.”, said the UN chief.
Need to investigate and prosecute these crimes
The Secretary-General urged member states to stand in solidarity with journalists around the world, showing the political will needed to investigate and prosecute these crimes.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay also marked the day with a message saying that for too many journalists, “telling the truth comes at a price”.
According to her, “When attacks on journalists go unpunished, the legal system and security frameworks have let everyone down”.
“States thus have an obligation to protect journalists and ensure that the perpetrators of crimes against them are punished. Judges and prosecutors in particular have an important role to play in promoting swift and efficient criminal proceedings ”, she said.
In recent years, UNESCO has trained nearly 23,000 judicial officials, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers. The training covered international standards relating to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, with particular emphasis on issues of impunity.