Governments have failed to take meaningful action to reduce the high rates of targeted violence and impunity in the murder of journalists. This despite increased international attention, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in a new report released this week.
The CPJ is an independent non-profit organisation that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. The report “The Road to Justice: Breaking the Cycle of Impunity in the Killing of Journalists,” says in the past 10 years, 370 journalists have been murdered in direct retaliation for their work. The vast majority were local journalists reporting on corruption, crime, human rights, politics, or war. And in 90 percent of cases, the report says, there is total impunity—no convictions of any perpetrator.
“The unchecked, unsolved murders of journalists who seek to inform their societies and the world is one of the greatest threats to press freedom today,” says Elisabeth Witchel, lead author of the report and CPJ’s consultant on its Global Campaign Against Impunity. “It is crucial that national governments and the United Nations system provide the resources and political support to break the cycle of impunity in the killing of journalists.”
The report marks the first UN – recognised International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2. It combines data analysis with the views of international experts, journalists, family members of victims, and press freedom advocates, and find that while conflict, corruption, and weak institutions all feed impunity, lack of political will is the most prevalent impediment to justice.
The report looks closely at climates in which CPJ has recorded the highest rates of anti-press violence and impunity, such as Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines, Mexico, and Russia, as well as countries where journalists have been targeted in disturbing numbers, like Syria. It also highlights countries that are starting to show improvements—Colombia and Brazil, for example—and the challenges they continue to face.
Based on its findings, CPJ has made a series of recommendations, including calling on national governments and political leaders to condemn publicly and unequivocally all acts of violence against journalists. United Nations entities and regional intergovernmental bodies are urged to take concrete steps to hold member states accountable to their commitments to combat impunity, and local and international journalists are called on to monitor and report on implementation of those pledges.
The report is available in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. CPJ will present the report’s findings at events marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in New York and Strasbourg on November 3 and 4.
For social media, CPJ suggests the hashtags #EndImpunity, #SpeakJustice, and #IDEI.