12 November 2015 During a dialogue event held in partnership with Iraqi legislative and executive authorities, representatives from the Council of Ministers and the Presidency of the Republic of Iraq; UNESCO, the Human Rights Commission in Iraq and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate urged the Iraqi authorities to take all necessary measures – through developing legislation, capacity building and adequate resources – to ensure that investigations and trials relating to crimes against journalists in Iraq are undertaken.
The initiative to end impunity for crimes against journalists in Iraq was launched at an event held to observe the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’, celebrated annually by the United Nations. The event included a number of key themes and witnessed the formulation of a set of concrete commitments approved by the conference’s participants as they make up the relevant bodies concerned in the fight against impunity and the protection of journalists.
The participants of the event agreed on the following key areas of the new initiative:
First - Re-investigating all inconclusive murder cases that took place against journalists, in addition to investigating threats and violent attacks that journalists and media professionals have faced in the past few years.
Second – Carry out a comprehensive analysis of the safety situation of Iraqi journalists and propose a set of safety indicators to combat and end impunity for crimes against journalists and media professionals.
Third – Enhance the safety of journalists in the field through capacity building, developing legislation, achieving fairness in judicial and executive proceedings of media related issues, and ensuring freedom of expression.
Fourth – Creating a joint operations room controlled by the below mentioned parties to follow up on future crimes, violations and/or breaches that take place against journalists and media organizations in the country. This will help lower the rate of violence and crimes committed against journalists and ensure a safer working environment for journalists.
Fifth - Amend the legislation currently in place and formulate new and comprehensive legislation with regards to freedom of expression, and the protection of journalists to ensure that the rights of Iraqi journalists are in line with global changes and the rapid developments in the areas of freedom of expression, media and journalism.
These areas were approved by each of the partners, as shown in the obligations noted below that fall upon each of them to carry out this initiative:
· The legislative body of the country represented by the Parliamentary Committees on Culture and Media, Human Rights, and Law:
- Contribute to improving legislation that will guarantee freedom of expression, enhance the protection of journalists and combat the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists.
- Monitor and follow up on cases of violence committed against journalists, and urge the government to take actions against them to combat and put an end to such crimes.
- Support executive bodies and civil society organizations in implementing the initiative to combat impunity for crimes against journalists.
· The judicial body of the country represented by the Supreme Judicial Council
- Re-open cases related to crimes committed against journalists where the perpetrators were not prosecuted and assist civil society organizations and the United Nations in drawing a clearer picture of the reasons behind the increased rate of impunity and crimes committed against journalists in Iraq.
- Work with the Ministry of Interior to ensure that fair investigations are carried out against perpetrators of crimes against journalists and follow up on future incidents in a manner that will reduce the rate of impunity, crimes and violence against journalists.
- Allow legal teams defending journalists and fighting for freedom of expression to access information related to crimes committed against journalists and the media.
· The executive bodies represented by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior
- Carry out fair and just investigations on crimes that have been committed against journalist and those that may be committed in the future to ensure that crimes are solved successfully and perpetrators do not escape punishment.
- Facilitate the work of journalists and provide as much protection for them as possible to enable them to do their job freely and safely.
- Provide logistical and field support to media organizations with regards to safety and security in the field.
- Assign a focal point to liaise with members of the joint operations room that will be created to follow up on cases of violence against journalists
· The regulatory bodies represented by the Human Rights Commission and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate:
- Monitor and observe cases of violence and aggression committed towards the press and media community.
- Present reports and data on incidents of violence and crimes committed against journalists and continue to urge the government on combating the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists.
- Capacity building via training, developing and rehabilitating media organizations and their staff.
- Support legislative bodies in amending laws and regulations that impinge on freedom of expression, freedom of the press and protection of journalists.
- Work closely with international organizations to exchange global expertise to the media and press community of Iraq and promote freedom of opinion and the safety of journalists.
· International organizations represented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- Implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in Iraq.
- Support government and local authorities through capacity building and developing capabilities in the areas of law, freedom of expression and protection of journalists.
- Support civil society organizations working on monitoring violations and assaults committed against journalists and publish appropriate reports on the matter.
- Urge the international community and the United Nations body on adopting resolutions and international regulations that can be implemented locally to reduce the rate of impunity for crimes against journalists.