GENEVA - The United Nations and human rights defenders are calling for greater protections for journalists as the world observes this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
The gruesome murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last year is a textbook case of impunity. The Saudi Arabian assassins and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who allegedly commissioned the killing, have paid no price for this crime.
Many other killings of journalists also go unpunished. In his message on this International Day, U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, deplores the rise in the scale and number of attacks against the physical safety of journalists and media workers in recent years.
Rheal LeBlanc, the U.N.'s chief of press and external relations in Geneva, told VOA that Guterres warns that world leaders who vilify journalists as purveyors of so-called fake news put the journalists' lives and liberty in danger.
“I think he said on many, many occasions how it is important for all leaders to show respect for the freedom of the press and all the social tolerance and respect for the work that journalists are doing … Freedom of expression and free media are essential to our democracies.”
UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, reports 1,360 journalists have been killed since 1993. The non-governmental Press Emblem Campaign reports 65 journalists worldwide have been killed so far this year. In addition, it notes that journalists in many countries are regularly molested, injured, harassed, detained and prevented from doing their work.
The campaign supports the enactment of an international convention for the protection of journalists to combat impunity more effectively. It cites the case of Mexico as a country where impunity is almost total because of the corruption of local authorities.
It says most crimes against journalists in other countries, such as Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Iraq, go unpunished because of the lack of an independent judiciary. It argues that independent international investigation and prosecution mechanisms are needed to identify those responsible for these crimes and bring them to justice.