Impunity breeds violence against journos: UN rights expert

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue on Friday said impunity is behind the growing acts of violence against journalists across the world.

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

“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 the main cause for the recurrence of episodes of attacks against journalists around the world,” he stressed.

UN-logoThe 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,” La Rue noted. “Only in the last two years, I’ve 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.