The High Commissioner’s message – that inequalities and hatred can only be tackled by protecting civic space, media freedom, protest and dissent – is essential. Too often, States in this chamber frame these goals as in conflict, when in reality, they are inextricably intertwined.
In Iran, we condemn the mass arbitrary arrests and detention of ‘haft tapeh’ protesters, demanding labour rights and fair pay, and the trial of Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation environmental researchers, under charges of ‘corruption on earth’ and espionage, which carry the death penalty.
We agree with the High Commissioner that it is inequality and discrimination, and not peaceful protest, that stirs unrest and undermines national security. It is state suppression of dissenting voices, not the vital work of human rights defenders, that destabilises societies and endangers sustainable and inclusive development.
We deplore the efforts by political leaders to scapegoat minorities, including migrants, and oppositional or critical voices for their countries’ economic and social ills, stirring up hatred and dividing communities, including in Myanmar, Russia, Brazil, Hungary and Poland.
We ask the High Commissioner what her office will do to ensure the Secretary General’s Global Plan of Action to Tackle Hate Speech will ensure robust protections for dissent, in particular for minorities.
We agree with the High Commissioner that “sound, independent information is the foundation of public participation in democratic governance.” Attacks against journalists, the media, and their sources, deprive the public vital information and allow wrongdoing and abuses of power to thrive.
In Mexico, the recent killings of Rafael Murua and Jesus Eugenio Ramos Rodriguez – journalists who were reporting on political corruption and organised crime – must be effectively investigated, and the perpetrators brought to justice.
In Malta, ongoing impunity for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, killed for her vital reporting on corruption by powerful political and business elite – is demonstrative of this global crisis.
In Turkey, Paradise Papers journalist Pelin Ünker should not be facing a year in prison for reporting on the business activities of the former prime minister and his sons, in Malta.
In Myanmar, we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo – who exposed the Inn Dinn massacre of civilians by the Tatmadaw – and all other journalists arbitrarily detained for their work.
States must go beyond rhetoric on the value of free expression, assembly and association, and turn to concrete action.