“Impunity breeds violence against journalists,” UN rights expert tells the UN Security Council

NEW YORK (13 December 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, today warned the UN Security Council that impunity is behind growing acts of violence against journalists in the world. 

“Without paying systematic attention to all attacks against the press, without ending impunity, it is very difficult to ensure the safety of journalists,” Mr. La Rue told the Security Council during a special meeting on the protection of journalists.

“Most cases of violence and threats against journalists are not investigated and those responsible are never identified, prosecuted or tried. The sense of impunity is a main cause for the recurrence of episodes of attacks against journalists around the world,” he stressed.

The Special Rapporteur said that journalists continue to be frequent victims of violence both in conflict zones as well as stable countries, as he had documented in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, in which specific recommendations to enhance media professionals’ safety were made. 

“At least 84 journalists have been killed in Syria since March 2011. Last month, two journalists were killed in Mali. These are simply very recent extreme cases that give some idea on the risks journalists face to inform us every day,” Mr. La Rue noted. “Only in the last two years, I have prepared letters on attacks against 171 journalists to 40 different countries.”

For the UN expert, more systematic attention of international bodies to all events of violence and harassment against journalists is crucial to change this trend: “Only some extreme cases of violence raise some attention. The far majority remains totally invisible.

“Before a journalist is killed, threats and other forms of attacks take place without any attention from the national authorities or the international community,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“In times of war or peace, when the public right to know the truth of events is threatened, all human rights can be undermined,” Mr. La Rue concluded, calling the UN Security Council to pay greater attention to attacks against journalists and other threats to freedom of expression within its regular agenda.

Frank La Rue (Guatemala) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

(*) Check the full report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/Annual.aspx

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx

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