This Council has repeatedly and unequivocally condemned all attacks, reprisals and violence against journalists and media workers through resolutions on the safety of journalists. While this commitment is absolutely essential, we now call on States joining consensus and sponsoring these resolutions to implement such protections for journalists at the national level.
In Brazil, we remain deeply concerned with intimidation of journalists from public officials, which serves to legitimise and facilitate a climate of violence. Between January 2019 and September 2020, the President – along with his ministers, family members in public offices, and political allies – have committed at least 449 attacks towards journalists and media workers. Approximately 23% of the violations came directly from President Bolsonaro himself. This includes individual journalists’ names and pictures being exposed to become targets of mass virtual attacks. Brazil sits on the core group on the safety of journalists resolution which urges political leaders and public officials to cease intimidating journalists – the government must now take heed of these commitments.
In Mexico, indigenous journalists face disproportionate or unique threats to their safety. During the first half of 2020, ARTICLE 19 registered 8 attacks against indigenous radios stations, and 9 attacks against indigenous journalists. The most common attacks include obstruction of their work, intimidation and harassment, death threats, and arbitrary detention. In 2014, Mayan journalist Pedro Canché was imprisoned and tortured by police for his coverage of protests. Although he was released almost 9 months later, there has been no justice for these violations and he is still being targeted, including with death threats. Mexico must create a safe and enabling environment for all journalists, including addressing the threats faced by indigenous journalists.
In Bangladesh, violence against journalists is too often met with impunity. In March, photojournalist and editor Shafiqul Islam Kajol suspiciously disappeared after being accused of defamation by a member of parliament. In May, 53 days after he disappeared, Kajol was “found” blindfolded and bound in a field and taken into custody where he remains in detention under criminal defamation charges. There is strong evidence to suggest that while he was missing, he was in the custody of security forces. We urge Bangladesh to immediately release Kajol and hold those responsible for his inhumane treatment to account.
In Cambodia, retaliatory prosecution of journalists is on the rise. Since April, Sovann Rithy, Sok Oudom, Ros Sokhet and Keo Hour have been in pre-trial detention on incitement charges in relation to their reporting activities. Similarly, Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin, two Radio Free Asia journalists, continue to face lengthy and unjustified criminal proceedings three years after being charged. We call on Cambodia to drop all charges against imprisoned journalists and to cease its intimidation and harassment of all journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
All States devoted to the right to freedom of expression must take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of all journalists and media workers – commitments on paper are not enough.