An important step in addressing the high levels of killings of journalists is combatting impunity. Impunity fuels and perpetuates a cycle of violence against journalists and creates a chilling effect upon society. A distinctive feature of the UNESCO Director-General’s Report designed to end this cycle is the Director-General’s monitoring of the status of judicial enquiries into the killings.
The Director-General’s request to Member States for information on judicial follow up is sent out on an annual basis. The status of judicial inquiries presented in the Report is based on the information provided on a voluntary basis by the Member States.
The term ‘journalist’ in the UNESCO Director-General’s Report covers “journalists, media workers and social media producers who are engaged in journalistic activity”, in line with IPDC Decisions on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted by the IPDC Council in 2008, 2010,2012,2014,2016 and 2018.
The cases of killings have been identified based on reports from multiple sources, including from international, regional and local monitoring groups; UNESCO field offices; UNESCO Permanent Delegations; and other UN bodies.
Status of Investigations
In 2019, 35 of the 61 States in which killings of journalists occurred provided a response to the UNESCO Director-General’s request for information on the status of investigations carried out on each of the killings condemned by UNESCO. This information has been analyzed for the purpose of this Report and categorized as follows:
No information received so far
This category is used if the Member State has never provided information to UNESCO on the status of the investigation, whether this year or in previous years. The UNESCO Director-General continues to request status updates for such cases.
In some cases, the Member States provided a general acknowledgement that the UNESCO Director-General’s request has been forwarded to the competent national authorities. However, no precise information on the status of the judicial inquiry was given. In this case, the UNESCO Director-General continues to request status updates for such cases.
The status of a case regarding the killing of a journalist is considered as “Ongoing/Unresolved” if the Member State has provided one of the following responses to the UNESCO Director-General’s request to provide information concerning the status of the investigation:
a. The case is currently being investigated by law enforcement agencies or other relevant authorities.
b. The case has been taken up by the judicial system but a final verdict has not yet been reached and the suspect/s has / have not been sentenced. The “Ongoing/Unresolved” category also applies to cases where only one of the suspected killers has been sentenced.
c. The journalist has been reported by the Member State as having been killed by foreign actors beyond national jurisdiction.
d. A court of law has acquitted the suspected perpetrator/s of the crime (for example due to lack of, or tampered, evidence).
e. A court of law has ruled to archive the case or the matter is otherwise unable to be processed through the judiciary system (for example, due to statutes of limitations). This category therefore also incudes those cases for which a judicial process has been completed, but where no person/s has / have yet been successfully held accountable in terms of due legal process, and hence where impunity in regard to the killing/s still remains unresolved.
The UNESCO Director-General continues to request status updates for such cases, except in cases c. and e.
The status of a case regarding the killing of a journalist is considered as “Resolved” if the Member State has provided one or more of the following responses to the UNESCO Director-General’s request to provide information concerning the status of the investigation:
a. The perpetrator/s of the crime has /have been brought to justice and been convicted by a court of law.
b. The suspected perpetrator/s of the crime died before a court case could take place or be completed.
c. The judicial process has revealed that the death was not related to the victim’s journalistic practice.
All of the responses that Member States agreed to make public have been made available on the UNESCO website alongside the statement of the Director-General condemning the killing. They can be accessed here