Safety of journalists and impunity highlighted in new resolution

The Human Rights Council adopted a new resolution on Safety of Journalists during its 27th Session on 25 September 2014 in Geneva. The resolution submitted by Austria, Brazil, France, Greece, Morocco, Qatar, and Tunisia, was co-sponsored by 90 other countries.

The Austrian Delegation, the main sponsor of the draft resolution raised grave concern that the vast majority of cases of attacks and violence against journalists go unpunished, insofar the perpetrators of these crimes have almost total impunity. The vulnerability of journalists becoming targets of unlawful or arbitrary surveillance and interception of communications in violation of their rights to privacy and to freedom of expression was also highlighted.

The resolution calls on States to develop and implement strategies for combating impunity for attacks and violence against journalists. These steps could include the creation of special investigative units or independent commissions, the appointment of special prosecutor, training of prosecutors and judiciary, and establishment of information gathering mechanisms as well as rapid response mechanism. It also acknowledges the importance of addressing the issue of the safety of journalists through the process of the universal periodic review

The resolution also highlighted the role of UNESCO in promoting the safety of journalists and in particular calls on Member States and all relevant stakeholders to cooperate in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity which was spearheaded by UNESCO.

Guy Berger, Director of UNESCO’s Freedom of Expression and Media Development Division spoke at a side-event of the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council held a few days earlier. In the event organized by the NGO Article 19, Berger noted that the fight against impunity dovetails directly with the Outcome Statement on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under discussion at the UN General Assembly. Furthermore, by explicitly mainstreaming the protection of journalists into the SDGs, a message will be sent out more widely that violence in other social instances will not be tolerated.

The resolution is timely as the international community commemorates the inaugural International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November. This international Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2013. UNESCO and its partners are organizing a series of events in conjunction of the Day to raise awareness of the issues of impunity and its devastating impact on society.