General: GCHR and partners commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), with its main partners UNESCO and IFEX, co-organised the Regional Conference in the Arab States on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, held in Tunisia on 02-04 November 2022.
The events began on 02 November, the International Day to End Impunity, and included several discussions, a photo exhibit and a training workshop. GCHR Executive Director Khalid Ibrahim participating as a speaker in the first session, entitled "10 Years of the United Nations Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity: Reaffirm, Recommit, Reposition". He talked about the great difficulties that journalists encounter in our region and the need to work together to provide effective protection for them as they promote their free journalistic work.
During the first day, at the inauguration of the photo exhibition organised by GCHR, participants were able to view many photos and bios of journalists from Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Iran, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen who lost their lives while doing their journalistic work for telling the truth to citizens and to the whole world. In most of these cases, as in hundreds of cases of journalists murdered in the MENA region, the perpetrators who killed them have not yet faced justice.
Ibrahim also moderated another session on the second day of the conference about "Enhancing the Safety of Journalists in the Middle East and North Africa: Challenges and Hope." Speakers Nedal Al-Salman, IFEX Council Convenor and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Najet Zammouri, Vice President of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, Mustafa Saadoon, Executive Director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR), and Rawda Ahmed, Deputy Director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), all spoke of the challenges they face in their countries and the hopes they have for positive change there. Participants engaged actively in the discussion.
On the third day of the regional conference in Tunis, GCHR organised a training workshop for fifteen young men and women journalists from Tunisia. The workshop covered topics on journalism, the safety of journalists, and the credibility of human rights defenders. Khitam Al-Barqawi of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Saloua Ghazouani Oueslati of ARTICLE19, in addition to Mustafa Saadoon and Rawda Ahmed, spoke to the trainees about their organisations and their work in the field of human rights.
GCHR staff also participated in other events related to the UN Plan of Action. GCHR’s WHRDs Programme Manager Weaam Youssef attended the High-level Conference on the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists, held in Vienna on 03-04 November 2022, where she facilitated a working group on General crosscutting considerations on gender and safety, during a multi-stakeholder breakout group to vet recommendations by theme, and then reported to the Plenary session. Youssef also participated in preparatory meetings related to the safety of women journalists. The event was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria, in cooperation with UNESCO and OHCHR. The Conference hosted a series of debates on the threats that endanger free and independent journalism, and the safety of journalists.
You can read UNESCO's report on the outcomes of regional and thematic consultations on the UN Plan of Action, based on a survey and regional consultations, including a MENA consultation held on 15 September, which was attended by GCHR’s Geneva Representative Michael Khambatta who spoke about the issue of impunity in prosecutions of crimes against journalists. He noted that journalists are far more likely to be prosecuted for expressing themselves. GCHR’s Journalists’ Protection Coordinator Zaynab Al-Khawaja also participated in the UNESCO survey and carried out a survey for GCHR of journalists’ protection needs, which is included in GCHR’s No Impunity Report. Of the 55 journalists surveyed from at least 10 countries, 82% of journalists feel a “high” or “very high” level of risk in their work.
GCHR’s report, published on the International Day to End Impunity, notes that journalists in the MENA region continue to face grave violations of their civil and human rights, including murder by governments or armed groups, usually with total impunity. Countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine and Yemen continue to be classified among the most dangerous places for journalists. The report notes that “women are further at risk due to gender-based threats of violence, defamation and insults, and attempts to humiliate and intimidate them online to prevent them from working.” The report was published as part of GCHR’s project with the UNESCO’s Global Media Defense Fund on “Investigating impunity for crimes against journalists in the Arab States, while providing protection”, and was also supported by IFEX.