UNESCO marks International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

“Over the past decade, more than 700 journalists have been killed for bringing news and information to the public,” said UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, on 2 November, 2015, at the opening of an event to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

The panel was moderated by Ms Christiane Amanpour, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety, and Chief International Correspondent, CNN, with keynote speakers, Ms Alice Bah Kuhnke, Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy and Ms Bathsheba N. Crocker, United States Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs. This was followed by a panel discussion with Ms Marie-Solange Poinsot, mother of Ms Ghislaine Dupont, journalist killed in Mali on 2 November 2013, Ms Janine di Giovanni, Middle East Editor, Newsweek, Mr Frank La Rue, Executive Director, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Europe and Ms Christiana Chelsia Chan, Expert Staff, Press Council of Indonesia

Only one in 12 cases of killed journalists has been resolved, according to the UNESCO report World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development – Special Digital Focus 2015, which was launched at the event.

“Every time a journalist is killed, I stand up and call for swift justice,” Ms Bokova said.

Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke, reiterated her government’s strong support for freedom of expression and journalist safety.

“I promise, that as long as I am the Minister for Culture and Democracy in Sweden, freedom of expression will be my top priority,” Ms Bah Kuhnke said. “As long as journalists are being killed in the line of duty it is a failure for the democratic society and every day it happens is a day of mourning.”

United States Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizational Affairs, Ms Bathsheba N. Crocker, recalled her Government’s support of UNESCO’s freedom of expression programme and the importance of the Organization’s 58-member Executive Board in providing the “quiet diplomacy that is sometimes necessary to obtain the release of imprisoned journalists and political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.”

A dynamic panel discussion followed, led by Christiane Amanpour.

First spoke Marie-Solange Poinsot, the mother of French radio journalist Ghislaine Dupont, who was kidnapped and killed on 2 November 2013 in Mali, along with her colleague Claude Verlon.

The UN General Assembly named 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in December 2013 in their honour.

“We still have the same questions that remain unanswered,” Ms Poinsot said on the lack of resolution for the killing of her daughter and Mr Verlon. While the association of friends and family of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon have kept hope, she said, “What is hard to bear is the silence.”

Commenting on the new World Trends report, Newsweek Middle East Editor Janine di Giovanni said the number of journalists killed was “shocking and startling.” She pointed to the importance of protecting local journalists who work “bravely and courageously.” Ms di Giovanni made a call to action: “We cannot let the people who imprison them, who kill them, who kill us, get away with it.”

Frank La Rue, Executive Director of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Europe, echoed this sentiment. While many people believe that journalism is a dangerous profession, “no one should ever give up that they deserve as much or more protection, because they’re defending our right to be informed.” Mr La Rue underlined the importance of political leaders making public expressions of the importance of journalism and of the role of civil society in countering hate speech.

Expert from the Press Council of Indonesia Christiana Chelsia Chan spoke about guidelines and mediation provided by the Press Council for media in Indonesia as a model for the role of internet intermediaries in fostering freedom of expression.

The event concluded with Ms Amanpour thanking the guests, and particularly Ms Poinsot for sharing her experience.

 

“Without justice, none of this will be solved,” Ms Amanpour stated, in a concluding push for the fight against impunity.

A video of the event can be viewed at: mms://stream.unesco.org/vod/021115_end_impunity_en.wmv

The report World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development – Special Digital Focus 2015 is available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/world-media-trends-2015

The World Trends report was supported by the Government of Sweden, with the participation of the Internet Society, Open Society Foundations, Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Oxford, and the World Editors Forum within the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).