UN human rights organs should press for investigations into missing journalists

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

Attn: Experts of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health

The Committee to Protect Journalists, which holds consultative status with the U.N., is an independent, nonprofit organization that defends the rights of journalists worldwide to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal. CPJ reports on and mobilizes against hundreds of attacks on the press each year, such as killings, assaults, restrictive legislation, imprisonment, media closures, online harassment, and other threats.

According to CPJ’s research, at least 64 journalists are missing around the world. Nearly one-third of them disappeared while covering armed conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

Over the past year, CPJ has been searching for updates on the whereabouts and fate of missing journalists in these countries and tracking down their families — many of whom are themselves displaced. Invariably, the families have been pursuing rumors and have relentlessly approached local and national authorities, as well as international and local organizations, in search of help to find their loved ones, but their efforts have yielded no results.

CPJ believes that these families deserve answers, and that authorities in these countries have a responsibility to conduct investigations and use all the tools at their disposal to find the missing journalists. To that end, CPJ has launched a campaign, #MissingNotForgotten, urging governments to do their utmost.

CPJ has also secured consent from relatives of missing journalists to submit their names to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and request special action. 

In line with the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which affirms the right of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person, as well as the right to freedom to seek, receive and impart information to this end, CPJ makes the following recommendations:

The governments of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen should:

  • conduct thorough and credible investigations into enforced disappearances of journalists committed by either state security forces or persons or groups acting with or without the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, and bring those responsible to justice   
  • take the necessary measures to search for, locate and release missing journalists and, in the event of death, to locate, respect, and return their remains to their families
  • update relatives of missing journalists regularly on the progress and results of the investigation and the fate of the disappeared person

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances should:

  • request the governments of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen to supply information about the situation of the missing journalists within a reasonable time limit
  • U.N. Special Mandate holders should:
  • Publicly call for credible and thorough investigations into enforced disappearances of journalists
  • Publicly urge the aforementioned governments to step up their efforts to locate missing journalists and treat their relatives with dignity by providing regular updates on the status of their investigations

Today, the International Day of the Disappeared, we must not only heed the uncertainty and the pain that the families of missing journalists endure daily, but also help them find answers. We look forward to your response.


Courtney C. Radsch
CPJ Advocacy Director