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IPDC Council calls on governments to curb impunity on crimes against media professionals

31-03-2008 (Paris)
IPDC Council calls on governments to curb impunity on crimes against media professionals
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The Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) adopted a decision calling on governments to report on their investigations into the assassination of journalists and other intentional crimes against media personnel.
Gathered at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 26 to 28 March, the Intergovernmental Council unanimously denounced attacks targeting journalists and urged Member States to comply with relevant obligations under international law to end impunity for such crimes.

The adopted decision, announced by the newly elected IPDC Chairman, Ambassador Walter Fust (Switzerland), recalls UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006), which refers to the Geneva Conventions and to the responsibility of Member States to prosecute those responsible for “serious violations.” The Council’s decision requests Member States to assume responsibility for monitoring the investigation of killings condemned by the Director-General of UNESCO and informing the Organization of actions taken and of the status of the judicial inquires conducted into each case.

Over the past two years, UNESCO has publicly condemned the killings of 121 journalists – 68 in 2006 and 53 in 2007. The 26th Council session hosted a debate which underlined the challenges of protecting journalists, and proposed measures to encourage higher level advocacy both nationally and internationally. Rodney Pinder of the International News Safety Institute maintained that impunity continues to be a major problem and that insufficient measures are in place to ensure the safety of journalists in the field.

Representing UNESCO’s Director-General, Mogens Schmidt stressed the importance of Member States’ compliance with existing commitments, namely Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1997, which requested governments to adopt the principle that there should be no statutes of limitations for crimes against a person when these are perpetrated to prevent freedom of information and expression. Toby Mendel, Law Programme Director at the human rights organization Article 19, argued that crimes against journalists not only violate their freedom of expression but also the right of other people to receive information. He highlighted the need for a supportive structural framework to counter impunity.

Statistics compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) show that only 6.7% of cases concerning the assassination of journalists resulted in the conviction of those responsible. The decision adopted by all 39 IPDC Council members requests the Director-General of UNESCO to provide updated information and an analytical report to the IPDC Council’s 27th session on the basis of the responses received from Member States concerned, and to make this report widely available.

The decision also invites the Bureau of the IPDC Council to explore ways to prioritize projects that support local capacity building in safety and protection of journalists.

  • Full text of the Decision adopted by the IPDC Council on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity
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