Murder and Justice: The CPJ Impunity Newsletter March 2017

In nine out of 10 murders of journalists worldwide, the killers escape justice; join the fight to end impunity! #noimpunity #endimpunity #speakjusticenow

“The certainty of impunity allowed the event to happen in the central park of the town.”
The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala on the 2015 murder of journalistDanilo Efraín Zapón López. Zapón López was gunned down in broad daylight in a popular public park.

New leaders must address impunity in Africa

Two countries with poor records of prosecuting assaults against journalists have newly elected leaders. CPJ has written to the presidents of the Gambia and Somalia to urge them to addressimpunity. Join us in calling on presidents Adama Barrow and Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to make justice in journalist killings a top priority.

Marcos Hernández Bautista (CPJ)

A rare conviction in Mexico

On March 3, 2017, a court in the western Mexican state of Oaxaca convicted a police commander of the January 2016 murder of journalist Marcos Hernández Bautista. Bautista reported on social issues and corruption. More than two dozen cases of journalists murdered in connection to their work since 1992 in Mexico, number six on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, remain unsolved. “While this is an encouraging first step toward addressing anti-press violence, justice will remain incomplete until the mastermind has been apprehended,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, in a statementfollowing the conviction.

Congressman under investigation for murder of Guatemalan Journalist

In February, Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and Public Prosecutor’s office filed a petition against Congressman Julio Juárez Ramírez accusing him of masterminding the 2015 assassination of journalist Danilo López. At the time of the killing, López had been writing about government corruption and was investigating the congressman for tax irregularities. Several other suspects have been arrested in connection to the murder. Violence against journalists has been increasing in Guatemala in recent years, but most investigations bring little information to light, CPJ reported last year.

New arrests in Sri Lanka killing and abduction

In Sri Lanka, five military intelligence officers were arrested in late February in connection to the 2009 assassination of prominent editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and the abduction and beating of journalist Keith Noyahr in 2008. Another officer was arrested last year in connection to Wickrematunge’s murder. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, elected in January 2015,pledged to reopen investigations into journalists killed or disappeared during the last 30 years but to date no suspects have been convicted.

Ex-policeman claims killed journalist in Philippines on Duterte’s orders

At a press conference at the Philippine Senate last month, former policeman Arturo Lascanasclaimed he assassinated radio commentator Juan Pala in 2003. Lascanas also said that Davao City mayor, now President Rodrigo Duterte ordered and paid for the murder. Lascanas is the second suspect in the case to testify the killing was carried out at Duterte’s behest. Duterte has denied any connection to the crime. The Philippines is number four on CPJ’s Impunity Index. At least 67 journalists have been murdered with impunity there since 1992. CPJ has called on authorities to fully investigate the allegations.

Journalism declared likely motive behind murder in Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities on February 8 announced they believe journalism was the motive behind last year’s murder of prominent Belarusian-Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet. Sheremet was killed when an explosive device detonated under the car he was driving in Kiev in July 2016. Ukraine’s Interior Minister told journalists in Kiev that police believe Sheremet was killed in retaliation for his work, and that the killers were hired. CPJ honored Sheremet with its International Press Freedom Award in 1998 and will publish a special report this year on the investigation into Sheremet’s murder.

Right to left: Joel Simon, CPJ Executive Director, António Guterres, UN Secretary General, Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary General, David Callaway, board nominee for president of the World Editors Forum.

UN Secretary General Pledges Action to Protect Journalists

In a February 23 meeting with the executive directors of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and CPJ, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres agreed to take steps to address the safety of journalists. At the meeting, the groups reiterated the call of the #protectjournalists campaign, led by RSF, calling for the appointment of a special representative to the UNSG to promote safety of journalists and end impunity.

UK House of Commons adopts Magnitsky legislation

The United Kingdom House of Commonsadopted an amendment to the country’s criminal finances bill that expands the definition of unlawful conduct to include human rights abusers, allowing the government to freeze their assets in the UK. The country is the third to adopt “Magnitsky legislation,” named after Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in Russian custody in 2009. Similar legislation has been adopted in the United States and Estonia. Last year CPJ examined how the U.S. Magnitsky Act could help in the fights against impunity in journalist attacks.

Learn more about the problem of impunity and how it impacts press freedom here.