Interview

Impunity is a Bigger Crime than the Crime Itself: Support Journalists in MENA

27/10/2020

Khalid Ibrahim, is an Iraqi human right defender with decades of experience in the human rights field, including more than ten years in Dublin a staff of Frontline Defenders. He co-founded the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

UNESCO: Could you present yourself and introduce how you become committed to promoting media freedom? 

Khalid Ibrahim: “From the very early days of its inception back in 2011, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) co-founders […] thought that media freedom is in the very heart of any reform that may take place in the MENA region. Traditional media in most MENA countries are owned by governments, or pro-government individuals or groups that are often directly linked to the security services. This type of media is almost fully used as a propaganda tool to promote the repressive policies of authorities. Therefore, citizens and civil society activists rushed to use the Internet, and in particular social media and blogs, to express their views about issues that are related to social justice, ending corruption and other important issues. […] Then, when the authorities sensed the size of the widespread support enjoyed by Internet activists, they enacted cybercrime laws that are specifically designed to imprison online activists in order to stop their peaceful and legitimate online activities.” 

UNESCO:  What is the mission of the Organization you are working for?

KI: “The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is an independent, non-profit NGO that provides support and protection to human rights defenders (HRDs) in order to promote human rights, including but not limited to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

UNESCO:  What will you do thanks to the grant by the Global Media Defence Fund?

KI: “This project funded by the Global Media Defence Fund is highly relevant in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, some of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. They work under conditions where freedom of expression is not respected, and the media have been censored and closed down. Journalists are routinely attacked, injured, kidnapped and killed. For example, journalists have been killed in Iraq by armed groups during widespread protests. Journalists in Syria have been assassinated or disappeared in prison. In April 2020, four Yemeni journalists were sentenced to death.

This project provides GCHR with the opportunity to directly support journalists on the ground to carry out research in their countries, and amplify their work, while also following up on cases of impunity. On the International Day to End Impunity, 2 November 2019, GCHR issued a report saying we must identify, expose and hold accountable those responsible for past crimes to prevent future crimes and protect journalists in the region.”

UNESCO: What will be the impact of this action? (please be specific, and if possible, give also an estimation of the number of journalists/media professionals supported)  

KI: “Whether it is as professional or citizen journalists, risking one's safety and one's life comes with the job across the Middle East. What allows this horrific situation to continue year after year is the culture of impunity. Hence, the solution and the way to protect journalists is to identify, expose and hold accountable those who commit crimes against them. […] This means that impunity is in fact a bigger crime than the crime itself. Impunity is the vehicle that ensures the continuity of the crimes and the targeting of journalists. This project will focus not only on who the victims of these crimes are, but also on who is committing them and how to hold them accountable. Only then will perpetrators think twice before attacking journalists. […] Through this project, GCHR will help end the culture of impunity by supporting journalists on the ground in some of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist.”

UNESCO: Any suggestions/recommendations you would like to make to UNESCO as administrator of this Fund and to its donors?

KI: More funding is needed to do advocacy and produce publications.