Event: Ending impunity for attacks on journalists

Parallel Event to the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Monday 25 February, 2019, 1300 – 1430

Room XXIV, Palais des Nations


97 journalists were killed in 2018, according to UNESCO. These lethal attacks are just the tip of the iceberg: globally, the threats facing against journalists are becoming both more diverse and more severe – ranging from enforced disappearances, to arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, unlawful surveillance, gender-based violence, and harassment and intimidation. In the digital age, surveillance, attempts to circumvent protection of sources and attacks on anonymity and encryption further undermine the safety of journalists.

Prospects for justice for attacks against journalists remains remote, driving their repetition: for the 1010 killings recorded between 2006 and 2017, the rate of impunity stands at a staggering 89%.

The stories that people will kill to suppress are often the most important for the public to know, including coverage of organised crime, corruption, armed conflict, abuses of power, human rights, environment, protests and social movements. Attacks against journalists seek to undermine public debate in a targeted attack on democratic life. For every journalist killed, attacked, threatened or detained, countless others are intimidated into self-censorship and entire societies are deprived of their right to know.

In a series of expansive and progressive recent UN resolutions, at the Human Rights Council[1] and General Assembly,[2] States have committed to act to address the physical, legal, political, technological and economic threats and attacks to journalists’ safety. The resolutions set out a roadmap for action at national level on three fronts: prevention, protection and prosecution.

The UN Plan of Action of the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, led by UNESCO, also provides a framework for multi-stakeholder action. This UN-wide response has also been enhanced by the UN Secretary General’s recent reappointment of a network of ‘focal points’ on the issue across main UN bodies. Moreover, “groups of friends” on the safety of journalists have been established by States at the UN in Geneva, Paris, and New York.

Goal 16 of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, employs indicators on attacks against journalists to measure States’ progress. In July 2019, the High-Level Political Forum in New York will put this goal under the spotlight and States will have a unique opportunity to share successes, challenges and lessons learned on the issue of the safety of journalists through their voluntary national reviews.

In spite of the wide-ranging and detailed UN standards and commitments on the safety of journalists, in many regions, practicing journalism carries more risks than ever before.

Join ARTICLE 19, the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Austria, Canada, France, Greece and the Netherlands to discuss what must be done to reverse this trend, to translate international commitments into action at the national level.  


Opening Remarks Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN, United Kingdom
Panelists Pelin Ünker Award-winning freelance investigative journalist, Turkey (by video message)
Thiago Firbida Protection Coordinator, ARTICLE 19 Brazil
Masuda Bhatti Editor, Daily Amader Notun Somoy, Bangladesh
Andrew Caruana Galizia Son of murdered investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta
Moderator Thomas Hughes Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

[1] HRC Res 39/6 ; HRC Res 33/2

[2] Resolution 70/162; Resolution 72/175