UN Reports Give Priority to Journalist Security and Justice

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By: Press Release | Committee to Protect Journalists

New York, June 22, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes two reports presented this week at the United Nations Human Rights Council on the plight of journalists targeted for their work, and supports the call for a collective defense of the right to information.

“These reports bring unprecedented international attention to the anti-press violence that seriously imperils our collective right to information,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “As powerful forces target journalists in an attempt to censor coverage of critical issues and control the flow of information, governments, international bodies, and civil society must work to counter impunity and ensure a free press.”

The report by Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, marks the first time that the office has focused on attacks against journalists and impunity in anti-press violence. The report by the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, highlights journalist killings as one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression. Both reports conclude that there are adequate international conventions and protections but that implementation falls short, particularly on a state level.

“It is inexplicable how, for example, the Philippines’ criminal justice system has failed to bring justice in 55 journalist murders in the past decade, even though the country has a tradition of a free press,” Simon said. “In fact, a third witness to the 2009 massacre of 32 journalists has recently been killed. The political will to secure justice is clearly lacking.”

CPJ research shows that corruption and dysfunction in law enforcement repeatedly thwart justice in journalist murders; suspects have been publicly identified in dozens of unsolved cases, but authorities are unable or unwilling to gain convictions. Unprosecuted violence on the press results in journalists avoiding sensitive topics, leaving the profession, or fleeing their homeland to escape retribution. In the past five years, more than 450 journalists were forced into exile, CPJ research shows.

The reports, combined with the recent UNESCO initiative for a U.N. Plan of Action for Journalist Security and the Issue of Impunity, complete a framework for institutions, governments, and civil society to take concrete steps to keep journalists safe and able to report freely. The U.N. plan would strengthen the office of the special rapporteur for free expression and assist states in developing laws to prosecute the killers of journalists. Its success hinges on the commitment of national governments and U.N. agencies.
CPJ’s 2012 Impunity Index found that unsolved journalist murders have risen sharply in Mexico and Pakistan. Therefore CPJ is pleased that Mexico has accepted Heyns’ request for a visit. More than 45 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico since 2006, and the country’s next president must ensure the implementation of new legislation that makes an attack on the press a federal crime. CPJ is also pleased that the government of Pakistan, where at least 42 journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work since 1992, has invited La Rue for a visit. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has pledged to CPJ that he would pursue justice for journalists killed on the job, but no convictions have resulted.

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