General: On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, NGOs call for immediate action

06.11.18

Beirut - On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 02 November 2018, which was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations at its 68th session in 2013, over a dozen NGOs called for action at an event and photo exhibition in Beirut entitled "No to impunity for the crimes committed against journalists in the Arab region."

The NGOs which sponsored the event are the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), ARTICLE 19, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), CIVICUS, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), IFEX, International Media Support (IMS), Maharat Foundation, Media Association for Peace (MAP), Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, and the Syrian League for Citizenship.

According to UNESCO, 82 journalists and media workers have been killed globally in 2018 as of 31 October 2018, and 90% of crimes against journalists go unpunished. Journalists as well as other human rights defenders are also being silenced by other tactics, including the misuse of libel and counterterrorism laws, accusations of “fake news” and online harassment. As a response to the issue of impunity and threats to journalists, the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. It is the first ever UN strategy to address the problem of journalists' safety and the problem of impunity. (For more, see the IFEX guide to the UN Plan of Action.) UNESCO organised a regional seminar in Beirut, Lebanon, on 02 November, entitled "Strengthening regional cooperation to end impunity for crimes and attacks against journalists in the Arab world".

As part of the events, a photo exhibition was organised in Beirut to mark the International Day to End Impunity, in order to shed light on journalists in the MENA region who have been killed or disappeared in the past years, including in Palestine, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.

The events aimed to draw attention to the serious risks faced by journalists as they do their peaceful work in the Middle East and North Africa region, in addition to raising voices to demand the strengthening of protection and security measures for journalists. This includes journalists and professionals working in various media outlets in war and conflict zones as well as those carrying out their work during times of peace.

The participating NGOs demand immediate action by:

  • Calling on all concerned institutions to take note that most of the murders and other criminal violations committed against journalists and human rights defenders by government agencies or extremist militias have been carried out by unknown persons yet to be identified;
  • Urging an immediate and serious investigation in order to find practical and effective mechanisms that decisively end impunity in crimes against journalists in all countries in our region;
  • Urging governments and other relevant agencies work strenuously to hold accountable those who committed crimes against journalists and that perpetrators of these violations will not remain unidentified;
  • Calling on all concerned parties provide proper protection to journalists in MENA countries and beyond so that they can carry out their work to the fullest extent;
  • Adopting the recommendations of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.