Today is International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. It marks an important moment to remember, not only the victims of these sometimes fatal crimes but also to truly reflect on the state of impunity plaguing countries all throughout the globe.
This day was established in 2013 by the United Nations which described ending such impunity as one of the “most important and complex challenges” of recent times.
“It is an essential precondition to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information for all citizens.”
In light of this cause, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) established an index that documents 261 journalists murdered in connection with their work between September 2013 and August 2023.
It found that, in 78% of these cases, no one was held accountable.
Since 1992, CPJ has recorded the murders of 956 journalists killed in connection with their work and found that a total of 757 – almost 80% – have gone completely unprosecuted.
Meanwhile, full justice has been achieved in less than 5% of these tragic murders dating back 31 years.
More generally, in 2022, UNESCO recorded an increase of around 50% in “killings of journalists” – between 2021 and 2022, 86 murdered journalists were recorded, amounting to one every four days.
Mexico was found to be the deadliest country for journalists.
Moreover, triggered by the desire to enforce the rule of law, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) urges Europe to take action against impunity in crimes wherein journalists emerge as the victims.
The EFJ currently counts 48 unpunished murders and assassinations in 13 countries across Europe.
16 in Kosovo, seven in Russia, six in Ukraine, six in Turkey, three in Serbia, two in Greece, two in Azerbaijan, one in Slovakia, one in Malta, one in the United Kingdom, one in Cyprus, one in Montenegro, and one in Belarus.
Some of these cases date back to as far as 24 years ago; over two decades without justice.
Locally, Malta has landed itself in the 84th spot of the 2023 Press Freedom Index and it has the highest rate of SLAPP cases in the EU – in proportion to its size and population. So, this issue really does hit close to home.
This year’s theme seeks to raise awareness of the main challenges faced by journalists and communicators in the exercise of their profession and to warn of the escalation of violence and repression. It looks specifically at violence against journalists, the integrity of elections, and the role of public leadership.
These include attacks and restrictions on the press in the context of coverage of social protests; the use of judicial mechanisms against journalists for reasons related to their journalistic work on matters of public interest; and the increase of forced exile of journalists in some countries.
Violence against journalists tends to reach a devastating peak during times of conflict. For instance, in 2022, with the start of the Russo-Ukraine war, at least 15 news workers were killed, according to AP News.
Meanwhile, since the escalations of tensions between Israel and Palestine three weeks ago, at least 33 journalists and media workers have been killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Countries with the worst rate of impunity include Syria, Somalia, Haiti, South Sudan, and Afghanistan.
Europe has recorded a regression in media freedom, with the European Commission’s 2022 Rule of Law highlighted concerning rollbacks of media freedom within the EU.
Efforts within the institution to combat this cannot go unnoticed. The EU’s Anti-SLAPP Directive intended to create a legal framework against vexatious lawsuits that attempt to silence public watchdogs is currently in its final stages.
Do you think that more needs to be done by key actors to combat impunity across the world?