Meeting in Vienna discussed impunity for murders of journalists

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(Right to left) Bereaved brothers Andrew, Matthew and Paul Caruana Galizia take part in a panel with Katherine Sarikakis, Ambassador Christian Sohal, and Harlem Désir.
© UNESCO
11 December 2017

“We are too late if we only speak of murder; because before that moment a journalist gets harassed, physically, psychologically and financially,” said Paul Caruana Galizia.

He and two other sons of assassinated Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, were taking part in a panel discussion at an event in Austria on 11 December. It was organized by Harlem Désir, the representative on the freedom of media for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Department of Communication of the University of Vienna.

Caruana Calizia described how, before her murder, his mother had suffered threats and attacks, 57 law suits, had her bank accounts frozen, and be subjected to arrest and accusations of tax evasion.

“All of this [has] gone unpunished,” he stated, warning further that culprits who harassed journalists in life, also sought to undermine their reputation in death.

There was no crime against journalists that happened without threats and an environment that prepared the act of the murder, noted the OSCE Representative.

Speaking at the event, UNESCO director for freedom of expression and media development Guy Berger said that monitoring of attacks on journalists was vital for acknowledgement and remembrance, as well as for building the necessary knowledge to develop mechanisms for prevention, protection and procurement of justice.

“Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 provides a real opportunity to strengthen monitoring, because it includes an indicator on killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention,” said Berger.

He cited the Outcome Document of the 2017 consultation on strengthening the UN Plan of Action and the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. This document highlighted options to expand research partnerships and share good practices.

Berger added that “UNESCO’s 2017 General Conference passed a resolution encouraging Member States to carry out, on a voluntary basis, national monitoring of Indicator 16.10.1 on the safety of journalists”.

The UNESCO official also highlighted the value of growing involvement of academics in researching safety and impunity issues, and the potential partnerships between them and other actors.

The Permanent Representative of Lithuania to International Organizations in Vienna, Aurimas Taurantas, in reference to the existence of ambassadorial groups of “friends of safety” at UNESCO, UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, raised the question of an equivalent body being set up at the OSCE.