On November 2, 2014, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) with its UN and civil society partners marked the first international ‘Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’. It was marked to draw the attention of the world to the alarming and rising number of killing of journalists, a situation that has resulted in limiting journalists’ ability to report the news. These killings also undermine the public’s right to be informed.
November 2 was proclaimed as Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists by Resolution A/RES/68/163 on the safety of journalists adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly at its 68th session in 2013. UNESCO was designated to lead its implementation.
Over the past ten years, more than 700 journalists have been killed as a result of their reporting work.
The majority of the journalists killed were deliberately targeted and murdered in connection with their exposure and denunciation of crime and corruption. Sadly, records show that ninety percent of these cases were not investigated, either because of insufficient resources or a lack of political will.
One of the chilling effects of inadequate judicial remedy is that many of the perpetrators of the crimes against journalists are emboldened to strike again whenever they think that journalists and social media contributors threaten their interests.
In cooperation with its Member States, UNESCO hosted a panel discussion at the United Nations in New York. In Strasburg, it co-organized two events with the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the European Lawyers’ Union, the UK-based Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) and the University of Sheffield (UK).
Ahead of the day, UNESCO and the online platform, Visual.ly, launched an infographics competition, which generated creative and powerful illustrations of the issue of impunity. It made infographics available for reproduction by media free of charge in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Users were only required to cite the graphic designer’s name and UNESCO in print publications, and tag @UNESCO on social media platforms.
Freedom of expression and press freedom are at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate since its creation. Its Constitution requires it to “to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image”.
The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and its network of free expression organisations around the world also marked the day with numerous exciting campaign activities. IFEX engaged in, among other things, lobbying of UN member states; providing online resources and commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre.
The Ampatuan massacre is the November 23, 2009 murder of 32 journalists and media workers in one attack in the Philippines.
IFEX launched its 2014 ‘End Impunity’ campaign one week ahead the UN inaugural International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. It called on all governments to participate in concrete, collaborative, multi-stakeholder actions to help halt impunity for crimes against journalists in its tracks.
IFEX, in a statement through its Executive Director, Annie Game, called for prevention of crimes against journalists and the creation of a safe and enabling environment for journalists to practice their profession, saying such situation is the best of all worlds.
The UN chose November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists to coincide with the day in 2013 when French journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were executed by militants in Mali.