UNHRC: Oral Statement on safety of journalists

This Oral Statement was delivered by ARTICLE 19 and supported by Reporters Without Borders at the Panel Discussion on Safety of Journalists at the 26th Session of the UN HUman Rights Council. 

Thank you Mr. President,

Violence against journalists chills freedom of expression, representing an attack on the victims and the right of all people to seek, receive and impart information. Where they occur, States must unequivocally condemn them.

Too often, a murder is the final signpost, indicating a failure to prevent and to protect.

In both Mexico and Brazil during 2013, four journalists were killed for doing their job, and over 350 others attacked. The protection policies in place are struggling to fulfil their potential; they lack trust, capacity, adequate resources, responsiveness to local needs and challenges, and commitment from authorities.

We ask the panel how these obstacles can be overcome?

We agree with Frank La Rue that impunity is the greatest cause of violence against journalists. We condemn the lack of accountability for the masterminds of of Anna Politkovskaya’s 2006 murder in Russia, and impunity for the 2013 murder of Dagastan journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev. There must be independent, speedy and effective investigations into and prosecutions of these crimes, and redress provided to families.

Safety for journalists cannot be realised without a legal framework that robustly protects freedom of expression. Criminal defamation and insult, blasphemy laws and sedition, must be repealed. Punishing public interest and critical reporting, including on trumped up charges, further legitimises violence against those speaking out, offline and online.

In this regard, we deplore the continuing detention of 6 “Zone 9” bloggers and 3 freelance journalists in Ethiopia, and the incarceration of blogger Le Quoc Quan in Vietnam, and ask the panel what States must do to address the protection needs of bloggers?

We reiterate the fundamental importance of investigation journalism, in particular on matters of national security. Too many States, including the United States, lack adequate safeguards to protect the anonymity of journalists’ sources or to protect whistle blowers in this regard. We ask what more the Human Rights Council can do to address this gap?

Thank you.