This week, members of UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication will meet to discuss the director general's biannual report, which examines the cases of nearly 600 journalists killed around the world from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2013. The report, and lacklustre response from member states who had been asked to provide status updates to the cases, highlights why the campaign to end impunity is so vital.
CPJ calls on Didier Reynders, Belgium's foreign minister, to use his country's presidency at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe--the largest pan-European human rights watchdog--to defend press freedom in Europe, and address violations by members states. CPJ's letter highlights press freedom abuses in Azerbaijan, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
The well-known and controversial Pakistani television talk show host Hamid Mir survived a murder attempt on April 19, even though he was hit with six bullets--two of which are still in his body. "I can move, I can walk and I can talk, but I am still undergoing physiotherapy and taking medication," he emailed to a small group of associates, including CPJ, over the weekend.
On Sunday, which marked the first United Nations-backed International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, CPJ joined a coalition of international press freedom and human rights groups in urging Russian investigators to serve justice for our murdered colleagues.
Russian actor Mikhail Porechenkov has joined basketball star Dennis Rodman, who declared North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un his best friend, and Jennifer Lopez who sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to the authoritarian leader of Turkmenistan, on the list of celebrities who have made human rights faux pas.
By Myroslava Gongadze
It is a sad truth of today’s world that the life of a journalist is often a dangerous one. We in the media hear daily reports of crimes against journalists, from intimidation to murder, and it is even harder when these are committed against our friends, family, and colleagues. A culture of impunity often obstructs our search for justice for these crimes and allows those responsible, whether they are state authorities or powerful elites, to block the people’s quest for the truth in the bloodiest of ways.
In 1981, the year CPJ was founded, Argentina was enmeshed in the so-called Dirty War, in which dozens of journalists were disappeared. Most were never seen again. To this day, no one has systematically documented the media murders that took place, and no one knows precisely how many journalists perished. Not surprisingly, given the information void, there was little international attention on journalists’ disappearances or the broader human rights catastrophe that many of the murdered reporters were seeking to cover.
A climate of impunity reached a tragic culmination on November 23, 2009, when gunmen ambushed a caravan escorting political candidate Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu as he prepared to file papers to become a candidate for provincial governor in the Philippines. The attackers slaughtered 58 people, among them 30 journalists and two media workers, the largest toll of journalists murdered in a single act since CPJ began keeping track in 1992.
Russia's well-developed security apparatus has the investigative and judicial capacity to prosecute suspects in the 14 unsolved murders of journalists that took place there in the past decade, at least by the account of its own leadership. In a televised announcement in January 2014, Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin boasted that 90 percent of homicides in Russia are solved. It's true that the Kremlin has made progress, though long delayed, with convictions in the case of Anna Politkovskaya. Yet, in other cases where journalists are the victims, investigations have a tendency to taper off, particularly when they point toward politically uncomfortable suspects. Few cases showcase this pattern more than the murder of the prominent human rights defender and journalist Natalya Estemirova.
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