END THE IMPUNITY FOR CRIMES AGAINST JOURNALISTS NOW!!!!
The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013 which proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ (IDEI). The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.
31st October is Halloween Day (remembering the horrors of death), 1st November Catholics commemorate their dead kins, and the same Catholics remember All Saints on 2nd November. The world has declared 2nd of November the Great Day to Remember Journalists who fall victim of armed conflicts, intimidation, threats, and harassment. UNESCO data puts it that between 2006-2015, almost 800 journalists all over the world have been killed with impunity. 9 out of 10 cases have not been prosecuted in law courts. This figure is too big.
Journalism has become a very dangerous profession more than ever before in human history. Press people have become the targets for the modern armed conflicts and violence. Photo journalists and media experts are shot at and their productions destroyed by those who believe that the public should not know what they do. Most of those who are killed are men and very few are women.
This week Al-Jazeera has celebrated 20 years of TV Broadcast with particular focus on almost a forgotten product, the armed conflicts, violence, horrors caused to humanity and hostilities in the theaters of armed conflicts. Since its inception in a state-controlled media environment, Al-Jazeera has focused on the on-going armed conflicts. It has gained the leading position in the world as a bold media house by entirely changing the media landscape and people’s perception about the role of media in conflicts. Al-Jazeera has demonstrated boldness in its coverage of the world violent scenario more than any other international medium.
Such glorious service to humanity does not go without sacrifices. Some journalists have been killed, threatened, jailed, taken as hostages and intimidated by the very governments that ought to protect them. The suspects of perpetrated crimes against media are usually warlords, fighters, criminals, governments, politicians, and terrorists who believe that the public has no right to access the information about their wrongful acts.
We are in a world full of criminals, violence and those with criminal intent to fight whoever is revealing their illegal and immoral acts in public. Some politicians and well connected business people, mafia like systems, some government security agencies, lawyers, and leaders sometimes collude with criminals to hide the crimes.
More so, many journalists who work in countries with adverse records on corruption, bad governance and opacity are more vulnerable than their colleagues in civilized nations such as Western Europe and North America. Arab countries are leading in the list as the most intolerable nations to the media. Africa is not too far from having non-conducive and media unfriendly environments with increasing perception of media intolerance, especially the investigative journalism.
Journalists are usually victimized for telling the truth yet truth telling is one of the key principles in media ethics. Journalists are under duty to hold the governing and the governed accountable for the benefit of human society and serving the common good. Instead, they are held captives or taken as hostages for carrying out their rightful obligations. They are seen as intruders, noise makers, nuisance by those who believe in status quo or business as usual (BAU).
This blog is rather interested more in inquiring if there is any proper and credible legal framework and policies protecting the rights of journalists against impunity.
Dear readers, this question comes at the appropriate time for researchers in media law and ethics in mass communication. On Friday 4th November, at 10. AM there is an appointment with experts. The title is: “Where is Media in the international law regime? Who protects reporters at the time of peace and time of war? Human rights protects journalists in both time of peace and time of war. International Humanitarian Law protects human rights of journalists during International and Non-International Armed Conflicts and the Geneva law is clear on this. Journalists are referred to under the category of protected persons. The work of journalism is public service. Their role is to inform the world of events and happenings. Such work is protected by UNESCO as well.
Some states have become a no go zone for journalists. Somalia is known for its ruthlessness to journalists. The state organs hide behind terrorism to expose journalists to life threatening issues. In Mali, a journalist was shot in cold blood and no suspect has ever been arraigned in court. South Sudan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists among many other media unfriendly governments in the world. Burundi has been threatening reporters as so many have been killed, maimed, jailed or forced to quit. The government see journalists as those who report the government activities to the international community. Such issues as abuse of human rights in some countries make it possible for governments to violate the freedom of expression with impunity.
However, some governments have tried their best to protect and safeguard media rights by promoting human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law. Journalists are protected by the law and anything that may threaten their dignity and life, is handled within the law. Such states have the rule of law other than the rule of men. Extrajudicial and arbitrary killing of a journalist is illegal and a violation of human rights. It is tantamount to denying the public the information. In such systems, the rule of law and human rights are upheld by the state. Most killings are done by national security agencies and usually no investigations are done and there is no justice to this effect. This is impunity in all senses of the word.
It is unacceptable that reporters continue to suffer death or are threatened for the good service they give to humanity. It is equally unacceptable to make stringent laws to deprive journalists of their rights. The international community stands firm to defend human rights of journalists all over the world and any despotic government seeking to violate such measures and rules of human rights shall be dealt with by the international community. Hiding behind terrorism to target and eliminate journalists is not permitted. Threatening journalists for telling the truth or reporting a story which is in the public interest is illegal in democratic and constitutional set-ups.
Professional ethics require that journalists work within a legal framework and standardized code of ethics. Both the informer and the informed must enjoy legal protection wherever they are. Governments that tend to deny journalists their right are denying the freedom of expression rights. They deny the people the right to access information. This is a violation of human rights and such governments shall be held accountable.
Commemorating the end of impunity for crimes against journalists is gearing all of us towards one reality: Journalists are protected persons and if they have a case to answer, then they must do it only within the law. Any institution or any person seeking to threaten journalists i already in the wrong side of the law. If anything, journalists are meant to do the gate-keeping, watchdog and they keep the governments on their toes for what they do.
More shall be discussed on Friday during the venue. You are all invited to share your opinions here. Disappearance of journalists is prohibited by the international law and actually it amounts to crimes against humanity in all senses. Such crimes against humanity can be prosecuted locally or at the ICC if well investigated.