Impunity

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Reports   |   Ukraine

The Road to Justice

Foreword

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.

Reports   |   Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sri Lanka

The Road to Justice

1. What Does Impunity Mean?

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.

Reports   |   Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sri Lanka

The Road to Justice

3. Where Impunity Thrives

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.

Reports   |   Russia

The Road to Justice

Sidebar: The Unsolved Murder of Natalya Estemirova

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.

Reports   |   Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sri Lanka

The Road to Justice

5. Building Pressure, Enforcing Compliance

The United Nations has escalated its focus on journalist killings, declaring that unpunished attacks against journalists are a major threat not only to press freedom, but also to all major areas of the U.N.’s work. In recent years, it has adopted two resolutions addressing journalists’ safety and impunity and launched a plan of action. These have come on top of existing Security Council Resolution 1738, which condemns attacks against journalists in conflict. “There must be no impunity for those who target journalists for violence,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon proclaimed in a statement in the run-up to World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2014.

Reports   |   Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sri Lanka

The Road to Justice

Conclusion

Today the fight against impunity has reached an important juncture. There is awareness on domestic and global levels of the extreme peril posed to journalists and the public’s right to information when violence against the press is met with official inaction. The cries for justice by freedom of expression advocates have been amplified by the U.N.’s endorsement and its designation of the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

Reports   |   Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sri Lanka

The Road to Justice

Appendix I

At least 370 journalists have been murdered in direct connection to their work from the beginning of 2004 through 2013, according to CPJ research. In 333 of the cases, no one has been convicted. In 28 cases, some suspects have been sentenced, or killed in the course of apprehension, but others believed to be connected to or to have ordered the crime remain free. Nine cases have reached complete justice, meaning all of the perpetrators, including the crime’s mastermind, have been convicted. CPJ maintains detailed records on journalists killings from 1992 to the present. For additional information, please visit http://cpj.org/killed.

October 28, 2014 12:00 AM ET

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Reports   |   Iraq, Philippines, Russia, Turkey

The Road to Justice

Slideshow: Seeking the Masterminds

CPJ research shows that in 88 percent of cases of journalist slayings around the world, the masterminds behind the murders face no consequences, even when their accomplices are apprehended.

Blog   |   Haiti

Duvalier's death must not mean end of proceedings against dictatorship

Activists demonstrate against human rights abuses committed by Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier outside the St. Louis de Gonzague school chapel, where his funeral is held, in Port-au-Prince on October 11. (Reuters/Marc Lee Steed)

The sudden death on October 4 of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and the initial information that he would be honored with a state funeral stunned the victims who had filed suit against Duvalier for massive violations of human rights during his regime. It also created an unexpected ripple effect in the press and the social media, with radio and television stations in Haiti and the diaspora broadcasting once more the voices of people who suffered under the brutal repression of the two Duvaliers, father and son. The storm was further powered by social media.

Blog   |   Security

Responsibility to end impunity rests with UN member states

Today marked an important step in efforts to protect journalists, with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva unanimously adopting a new resolution on the safety of journalists. Resolution 27/L7 reiterates, and strengthens the 2012 resolution (A/HRC/RES/21/12) agreed on by the same body.

September 25, 2014 3:52 PM ET

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