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A chilling occasion to mark

Nov 04,2017 - Last updated at Nov 04,2017

The UN General Assembly did not adopt, in 2013, the resolution declaring November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists for no reason.

Targeting journalists seems to have spread in many parts of the world; it takes the shape of murder, incarceration, silencing or kidnapping to prevent them from carrying out their duty, which is to tell the truth, report on grave human rights violations or expose issues of public interest, including corruption and dereliction of duties, among others.

Journalists are part of the first line of defence against human rights violations; as such, it is no wonder they become the target of repression in countries where democracy and the rule of law have yet to take deep roots.

According to UNESCO, over the last 11 years, 930 journalists were killed for bringing news and information to the public. In 2016, UNESCO “condemned the killing of 102 journalists, media workers and social media producers of public interest journalism”; in 2012, “the deadliest year for journalists, 124 cases were condemned”.

Equally worrisome is the fact that less than one in ten cases of assault against media workers over the past decade led to a conviction; such impunity, UNESCO says, “emboldens the perpetrators of the crimes and at the same time has a chilling effect on society including journalists themselves. Impunity breeds impunity and feeds into a vicious cycle”. 

The special rapporteurs on arbitrary, summary and extrajudicial executions, and on freedom of expression deplored the widespread attacks on journalists, and urged states to take action, not least to end the impunity of the perpetrators of attacks against journalists.

They said that “so far this year, the world has lost more than 30 journalists to targeted attacks. In addition to taking individual lives and depriving family members of their loved ones, these attacks aim to destroy the public watchdog role of journalism that is essential to democratic society”. 

Indeed, often-referred to as “defenders” of human rights, journalists need more protection. Without their work, many grave violations would go undetected. 

States must endeavour to secure the safety of journalists by strengthening legislation pertaining to them and by making an example of those who target journalists.

The media workers, on the other hand, must endeavour to work with probity, to double check facts before reporting and gain the public’s trust, not opprobrium.

 

Ideally, societies need to reach a state when the resolution has no meaning, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

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