UNESCO and the EU raise awareness for the safety of journalists and the issue of Impunity
“Since its creation in 2013, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists has become a central moment to raise awareness of the terrible fears and dangers that journalists face around the world’’, said Adeline Hulin, Project Officer for Freedom of Expression at the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels at an event in the Belgian capital in the aftermath of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI).
The event, organized by Ossigeno per l’Informazione together with the Brussels Press Club, took place on 6 November 2019, gathering experts, EU representatives and journalists to discuss the deteriorating safety conditions of journalists around the world. Among the speakers were Mr. Benifei a Member of the European Parliament, Ms. Suzanne Vanderzande from the European Commission, DG CONNECT, Mr. Spampinato, President of Ossigeno per l’Informazione, Mr. Borrometi Deputy Chief Editor of the press agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia (AGI), and Mr. Sagaga from the International Federation of Journalists.
Ms. Hulin informed the audience of UNESCO’s campaign on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Under this year’s theme #KeepTruthAlive, the campaign highlights the recent development that the vast majority of journalists is killed at home while covering issues of politics and corruption.
Out of all cases of killed journalists recorded and condemned by UNESCO between 2006 and 2018, only 12% have been judicially resolved.
This trend is also reflected in the publication Intensified attacks, new defenses: developments in the fight to protect journalists and end impunity, a preview report issued by UNESCO. While between 2015 and 2016 journalists were mostly killed in conflicts zones, in 2017 to 2018 the majority of deaths occurred in non-combat regions. “This trend reflects the changing nature of violence against journalists, who are increasingly silenced for reporting on issues of corruption, crime and politics”, Ms. Hulin underlined.
To emphasize that attacks on journalists are not just happening in faraway war zones, but in every part of the world – including local neighborhoods in Europe – the UNESCO Liaison Office launched a banner campaign in the Brussels subway. The key message displayed in 13 metro stations: Journalists are under a constant threat, even in Europe.
During the event, Ms. Hulin also reminded the audience that the overwhelming majority of the cases of killed journalists recorded by UNESCO remains unresolved: “Out of all cases of killed journalists recorded and condemned by UNESCO between 2006 and 2018, only 12% have been judicially resolved. In other words, in almost 9 out of 10 cases the perpetrator of the crime remains unpunished”.
Ms. Vanderzande from the European Commission highlighted how journalists’ safety has become a pressing concern also within the European Union. She described the threefold approach adopted so far, which includes legislative commitments, the financing of projects, and a mediation exercise with Member States. MEP Bonifei stressed the European Parliament’s commitment to address the issue of journalists’ safety and suggested further actions to strengthen media freedom within the European Union. Mr. Borrometti and Mr. Spampinato shared their personal experiences about the dangers faced by journalists when reporting on sensitive issues of public interest.
Despite of the negative trends shown, good practices are emerging with an increasing number of national safety mechanisms monitoring and reporting on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, together with a growing number of regional initiatives to tackle the threats faced by journalists. In that respect, strengthening media freedom and media pluralism has been defined as a priority for the next European Commission while the European Parliament foresees a plenary debate on Safety of Journalists and Issue Impunity on 13 November 2019.
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