Democracies Must Account for Impunity
Accounting for impunity is the first step to ending it. In September UNESCO will publish its bi-annual report on journalist safety and impunity. In the report, UNESCO’s director general asks states to share the status of investigations and prosecutions of the killing of journalists. An alarming number of states now ignore this process. Less than half responded for the 2014 report. Many of these countries not only have high rates of impunity but are also considered democracies, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Nigeria. UNESCO’s requests for this year are out. Join us in urging these states participate fully in this system of accountability by sharing our message on social media.
New life for old cases in Pakistan, Nepal, and Turkey in April
After a two year push by family members, Sindh province police reopened investigations into the 2014 killing of Pakistani television reporter Shan Dahar. Press freedom groups have urged authorities to conduct the new investigation in a thorough and impartial manner. In Nepal, police identified a member of parliament, Sanjay Sah, as the mastermind behind the six-year-old murder of media owner Arun Singhaniya. Several senior security officials went on trial for links to the 2007 murder of prominent journalist Hrant Dink in Turkey. Among the defendants are the head of intelligence for the national police, his predecessor, and Istanbul’s former police and intelligence chiefs.
A new weapon against impunity making way to law in the United States
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act before the U.S. Congress would allow the president to freeze assets and ban visas for (non-U.S.) individuals worldwide who grossly violate human rights. Read more about its potential to thwart those who enjoy impunity for attacks against journalists in CPJ’s analysis.
Frustrated justice in Myanmar
In March, police announced the closure of their inquiry into the 2014 death in military custody of journalist Par Gyi. The freelance reporter died in prison less than a week after he was detained by the army. Par Gyi’s wife has said she will continue to pursue justice and to see the case reopened.
Few answers from Hamid Mir inquiry
A document leaked in April, purportedly the report of a high-level commission of inquiry into the nonfatal shooting of television anchor Hamid Mir, found there was a failure on the part of law-enforcement agencies to investigate the attack. Local activists criticized the report for shying away from identifying culprits but not from laying out risks journalists take on when reporting on sensitive issues. Meanwhile, free expression groups have called for the official release of the report.
Working together against impunity
On May 2, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) hosted an impunity strategy workshop in Helsinki, Finland, gathering IFEX members from around the world. Participants discussed anti-impunity initiatives, including IFEX’s No Impunity campaign and the emblematic cases of Jineth Bedoya (Colombia), Shan Dahar (Pakistan), and Musa Saidykhan and Ebrima Manneh (both from Gambia). The group identified points for future collaboration and agreed to increase information sharing.
In March CPJ joined 34 other press freedom groups, led by Reporters sans frontières, to call on the U.N. General Assembly to appoint a Special Representative of the U.N. secretary general for the safety of journalists. In a joint letter, groups proposed that the representative work closely with the secretary-general to coordinate with U.N. bodies and member states to implement the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
Noteworthy new documents
In April, the Council of Europe (CoE) adopted a set of guidelines that encourage states to provide specific measures which can be taken to prosecute crimes against journalists in its 47 member states.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) presented a discussion paper on developing national mechanisms to protect journalists and address impunity in a side event co-sponsored by International Media Support at UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Helsinki, Finland.