No to Impunity
A report published by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Murders & other serious violations continue against MENA journalists
Journalists in most countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) continue to face all forms of repression, intimidation, and harassment, including the use of the judiciary to prevent them from carrying out their professional journalistic work. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has documented many cases of journalists murdered or abused, most carried out with total impunity. As we mark the International Day to End Impunity on 02 November 2021, we again call for justice in their cases.
This report presents the cases and photos of journalists who have sacrificed their lives for freedom of speech including those from Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia and Syria who were killed during 2020 and 2021. Four of them were killed in targeted assassinations, including one who was preparing a media report on Covid-19 in Aleppo. "There is no doubt that they should be honored and remembered, and that all parties should work to enhance the protection of journalists and to ensure that they do their work in a healthy and friendly environment," said Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of GCHR.
In related efforts, GCHR’s work goes beyond mere calls for an end to impunity. While keeping the memory of victims of crimes alive is important, we believe we must also do the more challenging work of investigating crimes to uncover and expose perpetrators. We believe such work helps spread a culture of accountability. In the past year, with support from UNESCO’s Global Media Defence Fund, GCHR has been working with teams of journalists in Yemen, Iraq and Syria to conduct investigations into the killings of journalists in their countries. While the project was difficult on many levels because of hostility in the region toward this kind of work, it has also been very impactful.
The impunity project started with workshops on investigative journalism and digital security organised by GCHR. Following this, the respective teams chose specific cases of slain journalists to investigate; the goal was to uncover truths about cases that could otherwise have been forgotten. Among the cases were that of Syrian journalists investigating the presumed murder of a number of their colleagues who found leads strongly suggesting they were not dead but rather disappeared in government prisons.
In another case, a Yemeni team investigating the killing of photojournalist Mohammad Al-Taheri attempted to determine the party responsible by examining the type of bullet that killed him and the direction from which it came. Another team investigated the circumstances of the death of Yemeni journalist Mohamed Al-Abbsi, who has been included in this report by GCHR on the murders of journalists with impunity. (Currently available in Arabic only.)
Meanwhile, an Iraqi team investigated the murder of a woman journalist Sarwa Abdulwahab who was murdered outside her home in Mosul in 2018. Their report uncovered how the killers told her mother that she was to blame for choosing a dangerous profession, and how the mother had run into one of the killers on a bus but could not react in fear that her son would be next. The team went on to investigate the general situation in Iraq, where most crimes against journalists are not fully investigated by the authorities, leaving the murderers free to commit more crimes. (Currently available in Arabic only).
These are some of several cases for which GCHR has supported investigations in 2021. "GCHR is proud of this kind of work and will continue to go beyond calls to end impunity, working towards investigating and exposing crimes, as a powerful and necessary step towards accountability," said Zaynab Al-Khawaja, GCHR’s Journalism Protection Coordinator.