November 02, 2015
BRUSSELS: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged United Nations Member States to commit to seeking and extending judicial cooperation in investigating and prosecuting killings of journalists.
The IFJ, which has launched its annual campaign against impunity for crime targeting journalists, also called on financial institutions and aid donors to make respect for press freedom and media protection among key criteria for development aid to countries with high levels of violence in journalism.
The IFJ’s call was made on the second commemoration of the UN Day against impunity for crime targeting journalists. To mark the day, the federation was holding a media event at Residence Palace in Brussels, as part of activities organized by the IFJ and its affiliates for its annual campaign against impunity for violence in journalism.
"It is important for UN Member States to give real meaning to the day against impunity for crime targeting journalists," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "We are urging them to cooperate through sharing technical expertise and know-how, training as well as best practices in investigating killings of journalists in order to make a difference to a situation which has become a safety crisis in media. That kind of assistance would further expose repressive regimes which continue to put journalism to the sword and heap more pressure on them to abide by their international obligations."
The IFJ has been recording killings of journalists and media professionals for 25 years including at least 85 killed since the start of 2015 and says there is very little use made of capacity, experience and skills which many UN Member States can share among themselves to solve journalists’ murders. The federation proposes an integrated strategy, in the framework of the UN Action Plan on the issue of impunity and the safety of journalist, with special focus on the promotion of close collaboration between governments’ laws enforcement agencies and specialised international institutions such as the UN Office of Drugs and Crime to investigate violence on journalists.
While welcoming the decision of UNESCO Director General to seek information from governments on action taken about killings of journalists, the federation notes that the voluntary basis on which the information is provided and the fact that the UN agency lacks the mandate to challenge governments represent weakness in the initiative. In many cases, governments claim lack of evidence to identify and punish the journalists’ attackers or provide information of little use.
The IFJ has long campaigned for linking development and economic aid to genuine commitment to respect journalists' rights and was among the press freedom organizations which made a successful case for such measures by the European Union leading to the suspension of an economic partnership with Sri Lanka in 2009. It therefore believes that targeted financial sanctions can contribute to the fight against impunity for journalists’ killers.
"In addition to judicial cooperation among states, the IFJ stresses the need for international instruments to be implemented and for the UN to get tough on unwilling and corrupt governments," added Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary. "Murder is a crime which must be punished. Today, we urge the UN, its agencies and other international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF to take all necessary measures, including financial sanctions, to bring to an end impunity for killings of journalists who play a public role. Impunity is an attack on freedom of expression and, ultimately, denies fundamental human rights to the public. Now is time for everyone to take their responsibilities and act accordingly."
The UN Day against impunity for crime targeting journalists was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2013. The UN Day falls on the date when two RFI journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were murdered in Kidal, Mali, in 2013. Last May, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2222 on the protection of journalists, the second resolution on media safety following its earlier resolution 1738 adopted in 2006 for the protection of journalists working in war zones. - IFJ
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