UNESCO and International Association of Prosecutors come together to support prosecutions of crimes against journalists


UNESCO and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) have embarked upon a new partnership to promote the safety of journalists and end impunity, as well as to reinforce the rule of law, through an agreement presented during an online event on 8 December 2020. As part of the new partnership, the two organizations launched a new set of guidelines for Prosecutors on Cases of Crimes against Journalists on 10 December in The Hague (Netherlands), during the World Press Freedom Day Conference, held from 9 to 10 December 2020.

According to UNESCO data, close to 9 out of 10 cases of killings of journalists in the world remain judicially unresolved. The guidelines for prosecutors on investigating and prosecuting cases of crimes against journalists identify the key elements to consider in the decision-making process when an alleged crime is committed against a journalist and propose a series of elements to be taken into account to proceed with the investigation and prosecution of these cases.

UNESCO is committed to supporting the work of prosecutors to ensure that no efforts are spared in bringing those responsible for attacks and crimes against journalists to justice. Journalists all over the world must be able to conduct their vital work freely and safely.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director General

The guidelines also aim to enhance the knowledge and capacities of prosecutors by providing insight on the conduct or supervision of investigations, and advisory assistance to law enforcement agencies; identifying stages and determination for proceedings in cases of crimes against journalists; and, preserving the protection of journalistic sources. The guidelines provide the specific conditions for the protection of victims, witnesses, immunities, and advantages for collaborating witnesses, while also examining the issue of mutual legal assistance (MLA), the use of electronic evidence and extradition requests in criminal matters. They also recognize the specificities of gender-based crimes and other forms of hate crimes on journalists, and analyzes the role of prosecutors in post-conflict jurisdictions and transitional justice issues.

This new collaboration will foster the work of UNESCO with judicial actors and expand specialized training on freedom of expression related issues to the realm of prosecutors. Since 2013, under UNESCO’s flagship Judges Initiative, over 17,000 judicial actors and civil society representatives in Latin America, Africa and the Arab region, have been trained on international and regional standards on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. Furthermore, the agreement enters in the framework of implementation of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.

The Guidelines for Prosecutors on Cases of Crimes against Journalists were presented during UNESCO’s online session during the World Press Freedom Conference to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, that was held on 10 December 2020.

The launch of the guidelines marks the operationalization for the agreement signed between UNESCO and the IAP on 3 December 2020. The agreement notably supports cooperation to address the issue of impunity for crimes and attacks against journalists. As those responsible for initiating prosecutions and often supervising criminal investigations, public prosecutors have a crucial role to play in protecting journalists who are often threatened or attacked for their work particularly when they investigate on corruption issues and public wrongdoings.

The publication of these guidelines has been supported by UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, and by the Open Society Foundations.

The IAP, based in The Hague, is the only worldwide organization of prosecutors and is committed to setting and raising standards of professional conduct and ethics for prosecutors worldwide, promoting the rule of law and respect for human rights, and improving international cooperation between prosecutors' office.