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International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists: when the most dangerous conflict zone is home

02/11/2019 - 08:23
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The EU reaffirms its commitment to protect journalists and pays tribute to those who lost their lives for reporting the news. Over 1.000 journalists have been killed in the last 12 years, most of them investigating local stories

International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

According to official statistics over 1.000 journalists were killed in the world in the past 12 years. Not only in faraway warzones, but also -and predominantly- at home, even in peaceful western countries. They were investigating issues that others wanted to keep hidden. Nine out of ten cases remain unresolved. 

On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the EU reaffirms its commitment to protect journalists and support media pluralism worldwide, and pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

“Freedom of expression, in all its forms, is the very essence of democracy. Only with a thriving, free and independent media landscape, we can hold governments, businesses and society at large accountable. And precisely for this fundamental principle, far too often, journalists are attacked, persecuted, harassed, or intimidated for carrying out their work”, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini stressed in a declaration on behalf of the European Union. “Time and again, governments fail to protect journalists, hesitate to prosecute perpetrators or even perpetrate the crimes themselves”.

In 2018 alone, 94 journalists and media staff were killed in work-related incidents, as reported by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Hundreds more have been wrongfully imprisoned, some of them without ever having been tried in a court.

“Only last month we commemorated the killing of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi, whose case still awaits court handling, and the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in the midst of Europe, proving that no region of the world is immune to such crimes”, Mogherini said.

journalists and media staff killed in work-related incidents during 2018.

  The 2018 death toll marks a increase up from 82 killings recorded in 2017. Source: IFJ

Countries with the highest numbers of media killings in 2018 Afghanistan:16; Mexico:11; Yemen:9; Syria:8; India:7; Pakistan:5; Somalia:5; USA:5; Philippines:3; Ecuador:3; Brazil:3; Colombia:2; Palestine:2; Guatemala:2.

Contrary to the popular belief, most journalists are not murdered or wounded far away from home, in the heat of war coverage, but suffer violence in their immediate surroundings. 93% of killed journalists were local journalists investigating local stories, according to #KeepTruthAlive, a campaign developed by UNESCO to mark the date.

In December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (Resolution A/RES/68/163). The chosen date commemorates the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013. The Resolution urges the Member States to implement measures countering the current impunity for crimes against journalists, a reality that is still far from changing.

An image from the UNESCO campaign #KeepTruthAlive.

What is the EU doing to protect journalists?

The EU is a leading global actor in the protection of journalists and the defence of free and independent quality journalism, an essential ingredient of any fully-fledged democracy. 

The EU-funded mechanism for Human Rights Defenders, a network that delivers fast and specific EU response to human rights activists, is ready to protect journalists facing imminent danger or threats worldwide. 

Threats to media pluralism in the EU and neighbouring countries are consistently monitored and measured by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF)’s Media Pluralism Monitor. On top of that, in 2019 the European Commission has earmarked a budget of more than €8 million to support projects geared at promoting quality journalism and cross-border cooperation between media professionals, as well as funding cross-border investigative journalism.