UNESCO, HRCI and IJS call for ending impunity for crime against journalist in Iraq

01 November 2015

1 November, 2015: Baghdad, Iraq : “We urge the Iraqi authorities to take all necessary measures – through developing legislation, capacity building and adequate resources – to ensure that investigations and trials relating to crime against journalists in Iraq are undertaken”, declare UNESCO Representative to Iraq Axel Plathe, Human Rights Commissioner Athmar al Shatry and Iraqi Journalists Syndicate President Moaid Al-Lami in a joint statement on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists” that is being observed worldwide today, 2 November.

“The near complete impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against journalists goes against everything that we stand for, our shared value and our common objectives”, state the three organizations.

In Iraq, the safety situation of journalist remains dramatic with an unacceptably high number of attacks against journalists and continuous impunity of those acts with more than 100 cases of assassinations of journalists not thoroughly investigated.

UNESCO, the High Commission of Human Rights for Iraq (HRCI) and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate (IJS)  have undertaken a variety of initiatives to address the issue of safety of journalists over the past years within the framework of the  UN Plan of Action on the  Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

For example, UNESCO and IJS signed a project agreement for enhancing Iraqi journalists’ capacities in conflict-sensitive reporting. UNESCO, in cooperation with a local NGO, is developing a journalists’ safety index in Iraq. As part of its International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), UNESCO also held three workshops on investigative writing and reporting.

HRCI is monitoring the media situation and prepares regularly reports on violence against journalists. HRCI has also organized a conference and a workshop that have resulted in the formulation of a strategy in accordance with national law that sets up a process of receiving complaints, investigating them and passing along the results of the investigation to the Prosecutor General and the Media Commission. This strategy was developed by several stakeholders in addition to civil society organizations and activists. IJS has negotiated with the High Judiciary Council and the Ministry of Interior to reinvestigate all the cases of killing journalists.

The three organizations and other partners will observe the Day with a dialogue event on “Fostering the prosecution of crimes against journalists in Iraq” that will be held on 12 November 2015 in Baghdad.

The main goal of the event is to raise awareness on the issue of impunity of attacks against journalists.  Participants from the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the media will

discuss on how to move forward with combating impunity. It is expected that they will formulate a set of concrete commitments to more effectively persecute crimes against journalists.

The event will also provide an occasion for the Iraqi Journalists Rights Defending Association to present the progress of the comprehensive analysis of the safety situation of Iraqi journalists, that has started a few months ago using the UNESCO Journalists’ Safety Indicators.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013 which proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’. The Resolution urge Member States to implement measures countering the culture of impunity. The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.

This landmark resolution condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. It also urges Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies. It further calls upon States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference.