Im­punity en­dan­gers our right to know

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - FRANK LA RUE news­room@mm­times.com Frank La Rue is UNESCO’s as­sis­tant di­rec­tor gen­eral for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion.

OVER the past decade, more than 800 jour­nal­ists have been killed in the line of duty, and only 8 per­cent of these cases have been re­solved. These are the of­fi­cial fig­ures from the di­rec­tor gen­eral of UNESCO, an or­gan­i­sa­tion of 195 mem­ber states.

The 92pc of un­re­solved cases tells the pub­lic that free ex­pres­sion is not pro­tected. It tells them that so­ci­ety can­not en­sure their right to in­for­ma­tion.

This is why ev­ery gov­ern­ment must act upon its re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­ves­ti­gate crimes against jour­nal­ists. Ev­ery gov­ern­ment has to act timeously and thor­oughly, if they are to set a prece­dent for other cases.

If we al­low any form of vi­o­lence against jour­nal­ists, we al­low im­punity to pre­vail.

Im­punity is the fail­ure to guar­an­tee jus­tice and when im­punity pre­vails in cases of vi­o­lence against jour­nal­ists, as well as hu­man rights de­fend­ers, it is an in­vi­ta­tion, not for one, but for many more cases to oc­cur.

This is the mes­sage we send on Novem­ber 2, In­ter­na­tional Day to End Im­punity for Crimes against Jour­nal­ists. This is an im­por­tant day, not only to com­mem­o­rate and hon­our all those who have died in the line of duty, but also to call for jus­tice in cases of vi­o­lence and ha­rass­ment against jour­nal­ists. All ha­rass­ment against jour­nal­ists must be re­jected, in­clud­ing ar­bi­trary ar­rests and ver­bal in­tim­i­da­tion. End­ing im­punity on all these acts is the most im­por­tant step for guar­an­tee safety of jour­nal­ists.

Pro­tect­ing jour­nal­ists and guar­an­tee­ing a free press is es­sen­tial for the de­vel­op­ment of so­ci­eties and im­por­tant for ev­ery woman and man to ex­er­cise their right to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion, their right to par­tic­i­pate as cit­i­zens in democ­racy, and their right to work for the right to de­vel­op­ment.

This is im­por­tant, be­cause we need free ex­pres­sion, democ­racy and ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion to drive more in­clu­sive sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. That is why the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals, agreed last year by all states in the United Na­tions, recog­nised in goal 16.10 the need to guar­an­tee their “pub­lic ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion” for guar­an­tee­ing the reach­ing of the 17 goals.

Jour­nal­ism is what en­ables cit­i­zens of their right to be in­formed, their right to know and their right to as­sure ac­count­abil­ity of those with power.

Ev­ery time a jour­nal­ist is at­tacked, threat­ened, as­sas­si­nated or ha­rassed and the case is not in­ves­ti­gated, it is an in­vi­ta­tion for more vi­o­lence. Ev­ery time there is no jus­tice for a jour­nal­ist who is vic­timised, it em­bold­ens the at­tack­ers to con­tinue.

Novem­ber 2 is the an­niver­sary of the mur­der of two French jour­nal­ists in Mali in 2013. Four years ear­lier, more than 30 jour­nal­ists were mur­dered in the Maguin­danao mas­sacre in the Philip­pines, which has been the dead­li­est sin­gle at­tack against jour­nal­ists in his­tory. Nei­ther case has yet been re­solved.

To help se­cure jus­tice for jour­nal­ists, UNESCO works with ju­di­cia­ries around the world, to sen­si­tise them about the im­por­tance of cases where jour­nal­ists are killed.

UNESCO also part­ners with me­dia, gov­ern­ments and civil so­ci­ety groups to also raise aware­ness of this is­sue. This ac­tion is taken for­ward by the UN Plan of Ac­tion for the Safety of Jour­nal­ists and the Is­sue of Im­punity, which calls for wide-rang­ing part­ner­ships amongst in­ter­ested peo­ple and was wel­come by the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly Res­o­lu­tion on De­cem­ber 18, 2013.

Novem­ber 2 is a day to call for jus­tice, to fight for the safety of jour­nal­ists and to end im­punity. It is a day to call upon gov­ern­ments to re­spond to the cases of killed jour­nal­ists, and to en­cour­age the jus­tice sys­tems to con­duct timely and ef­fec­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the crimes com­mit­ted against jour­nal­ists.

Erad­i­cat­ing im­punity for at­tacks on jour­nal­ists is fun­da­men­tal for free ex­pres­sion, hu­man rights and pub­lic ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion. It’s what ev­ery­one should be call­ing for.

All ha­rass­ment against jour­nal­ists must be re­jected, in­clud­ing ar­bi­trary ar­rests and ver­bal in­tim­i­da­tion.

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