MENA: NGOs call for action to stop impunity for crimes against journalists

Beirut – On the occasion of the 5th International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 02 November 2018, which was approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations at its 68th session in 2013, over a dozen NGOs called for action at an event in Beirut entitled “No to impunity for the crimes committed against journalists in the Arab region.”

The NGOs 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, and the Syrian League for Citizenship.

According to UNESCO, 82 journalists and media workers have been killed globally in 2018 as of today, 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.)

A photo exhibition was also organised to mark the International Day to End Impunity, in order to shed light on journalists in the Arab 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 these eight countries and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, in addition to raising voices to demand the strengthening of protection and security for journalists, an essential requirement. 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.

Participants demanded action by:

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