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.
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.
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.
In November 2013, the United Nations General Assembly put the issue of impunity squarely on the global agenda.
The Resolution on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, adopted by consensus, describes the absence of justice for victims as “one of the main challenges to strengthening the protection of journalists.” It calls on states to “ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy, and effective investigations into all alleged violence against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction.” Governments are further charged to “bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice and to ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.” The resolution proclaims November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
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.
New York, September 9, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed that dozens of journalists remain imprisoned in Iran more than a year after the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani, who has pledged to seek more constructive engagement with the international community. CPJ calls on attendees of this month's U.N. General Assembly to urge Rouhani to ensure the release of all journalists imprisoned for their work.
New York, June 5, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the declaration today by leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations that democratic governance and human rights should be integral to the post-2015 development agenda. The United Nations is seeking agreement on a broad set of sustainable development objectives to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015 and which made no mention of political or civil rights. The new goals will provide a framework for donor aid and thus influence priorities for years to come.
A new document on freedom of expression and opinion, adopted May 12 by the 28 foreign ministers of the European Union, presses nearly all the right buttons. Drawing its inspiration from international human rights norms as well as from the EU's treaties and its charter of fundamental rights, the document reaffirms the role of freedom of opinion and expression as "an essential foundation for democracy, rule of law, peace, stability, sustainable inclusive development, and participation in public affairs." It also makes a strong case for free and independent journalism. The ministers committed the EU and member states to the defense of journalists' freedom and safety, and endorsed watchdog journalism as a decisive factor in "uncovering abuses of power, shining a light on corruption, and questioning received opinion."
Late in 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 68/163 on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, in an effort to stem the killings of journalists and ensure that perpetrators of deadly violence against journalists are brought to justice. The resolution was a recognition that it has never been a more dangerous time to be a journalist, and that states have a responsibility to take action.
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