UNESCO calls for end to impunity for crimes against journalists
700 journalists have been killed in the last ten years. In most cases, perpetrators have not been called to account. UNESCO is spearheading a campaign to end impunity.
“When journalists get wounded, get imprisoned, get tortured, when journalists are shut down in one way or in another, we must make sure that either government or non-government actors that do this to journalists are held accountable.”
Ms Christiane Amanpour
- UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression
Over the past ten years a total of 700 journalists have been killed for reporting the news: one death every five days. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished. Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and justice systems.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warns that impunity damages whole societies by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption and crime. Governments, civil society, the media and everyone concerned to uphold the rule of law are being asked to join in the global efforts to end impunity.
A letter from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, reads:
In the past six years, I have publicly and unequivocally condemned more than 542 cases of killings of journalists, media workers and social media producers who generate significant amounts of journalism. With attacks on journalists on the rise, UNESCO spearheaded the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, to end impunity by promoting concerted action among United Nations agencies, working across the world with governments, civil society, academia and the media itself. This work is bearing fruit. There is growing international recognition of the importance of improving safety of journalists and of ending impunity. The United Nations General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, as well as the United Nations Security Council have all adopted landmark resolutions specifically addressing these obstacles – as has the Council of Europe at the regional level. More and more States are establishing new laws and mechanisms to tackle.
- More than nine out of ten of these killed journalists have been local correspondents and reporters
- This year alone, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova condemned over 70 cases of killed media personnel (up until September 2015)
- From 2006-2014, print media has the most cases of killed journalists with 40% of the victims. Television comes second with 28% while Radio represents 21% of the victims. The remaining statistics are 6% for Web-based journalists and 5% for journalists active on multiple platforms. The traditional media accounts for 89% of all victims.
- The rate of voluntary response by UNESCO Member States to requests by the Director-General for information about judicial follow-up to killings has risen from a 30% response rate in 2013, to 42% in 2015.
- The responses received in 2015 cover 46% of 641 unresolved cases for the period 1 January 2006 up to 31 December 2014. This is an increase in the extent of information as compared to previous periods, but there was still no information received for more than half the cases.
- The rate of resolving the cases of killed journalists remains extremely low: based upon the information which UNESCO did receive from Member States, the proportion of cumulative cases which are reported as judicially resolved was 5% in 2012, rising to 8% in 2014.
UNESCO will convene or co-host events in Paris, London, New York and elsewhere, on Monday, 2 November 2015, to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI).
These End Impunity-Day meetings will be an opportunity for journalists, lawyers, policy-makers and others to consider how best to respond to that urgent challenge.