UN says impunity for crimes committed against journalists remains unacceptably high

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UNESCO continues to observe an upward trend of resolved cases impunity against journalists worldwide from 11% in 2018 to 14% in 2022. IMAGE/UNESCO

By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN

As the world commemorated the 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, UNESCO said the Director-General’s Report on Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity is set to be released later this month.

Key highlights and trends in the report shows that though it remains unacceptably high, impunity for crimes committed against journalists has continuously decreased, by a total of 3% since 2018, the first year of the previous biennial.

“In 2022, the global impunity rate was measured by UNESCO at 86% compared to 89% in 2018. UNESCO, therefore, continues to observe an upward trend of resolved cases worldwide from 11% in 2018 to 14% in 2022,” the UN agency said.

The latest developments come at a time when police in Kenya are investigating the mystery surrounding the death of prominent Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif .

Sharif a harsh critic of the Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, was shot dead by Kenyan police who said a vehicle he was travelling in defied orders to stop at a police roadblock resulting the shooting.

The data provided by UNESCO shows that there are no safe spaces for journalists. Of the 117 journalists killed in 2020-2021, 78%, or 91 journalists, were killed while away from their offices.

Most killings occurred outside their newsrooms. Some journalists were murdered in the street or in their vehicles, and some were kidnapped to then be found dead. Several were killed in front of family members, including their children.

The 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists that was marked on November 2, comes at a time deaths of about 13 Kenyan journalists who died under controversial circumstances remain unresolved.

During celebrations to mark the 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in Kenya, the new Cabinet Secretary for ICT Mr Eliud Owalo said the Kenya Kwanza government holds dear the life of every journalist.

Pakistani top news anchor Arshad Sharif who was shot dead in Kenya, just months after he fled his home country to avoid arrest over sedition charges. PHOTO| UGC

“We are saddened each time a journalist is endangered or harmed or killed in the course of duty,” said Mr Owalo.

UNESCO Director-General’s Report on Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity is a unique mechanism within the UN system for monitoring the killings of journalists.

It was first published in 2008, upon a Decision of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). The Report is published every two years, making an occasion for Member States to take stock of global developments and discuss challenges linked to promoting the safety of journalists and combatting impunity.

The full report will be presented on November 24 and 25, 2022 before the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication of UNESCO, at its 33rd Session.

To commemorate both the 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and the 10-year Anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, a high-level conference will take place in Vienna, Austria.

The conference will provide a joint multi-stakeholder reflection process on how to prevent, protect and prosecute crimes against journalists, and aims to take stock of the achievements and challenges of the past 10 years in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The two-day conference will be in two parts. The first day will be a pre-conference during which Non-State Actors will convene to share lessons and best practices in the implementation of the UN Plan, and discuss strategies of tackling emerging issues. The second day will be a Ministerial conference during which political commitment towards the implementation for the UN Plan will be renewed.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013, which proclaimed the 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI).

Since then, global commemorations of IDEI serve as a unique opportunity to raise awareness and promote a dialogue between all actors involved in combatting impunity for crimes against journalists.

In this regard, since 2014, UNESCO and its partners have organized around 183 events across the world within the framework of IDEI commemorations with Member States, UN agencies, regional human courts and bodies, members of the judiciary, civil society and the media, which play a vital role to ensure accountability and bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers.

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