November 2, 2014 was the first-ever International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The concern for the safety of journalists around the world has been on the United Nations General Assembly’s agenda this year – especially those whose safety are threatened by non-State actors, including terrorist groups and criminal organizations. As a result, Resolution A/RES/68/163 was adopted to mark this date as the official day to bring awareness to this global issue. According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, more than 700 journalists have died while performing their job in the past decade, and nine out of every 10 cases of crimes against journalists go unpunished. On average, one journalist is killed per week. The UN calls for a universal effort to protect the safety of journalists while performing their job, and to ensure justice for any crimes that are committed against them so they do not go unpunished.
This date was not chosen randomly – it marks the assassination of two French journalists who were shot to death in Mali on November 2, 2013. Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, were performing their job in the city of Kidal of northern Mali, where French troops had intervened against Al-Qaida and other extremist groups earlier that year. The two journalists were kidnapped and shot multiple times, and their bodies were found later that day 8 miles outside the city.
This UN initiative to bring about awareness to the growing global injustice for crimes against journalists is backed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), who is designated to lead the implementation of this Resolution. The Resolution “urges Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers…and to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.”
I believe this Resolution was the proper and necessary action that needed to be taken, and I commend the UN for bringing global awareness to this growing concern over the safety of journalists. As the UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said, “a safer world for journalists is a better world for all of us.” I agree completely with this statement. Journalists risk their lives to investigate relevant and pressing issues in order to bolster dialogue so the rest of the world can be well informed. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where people are scared to speak up about corruption, political repression or human rights violations in fear of the possible irreversible consequences – this is why journalists are such an invaluable resource of our societies that needs all the protection and awareness that States can provide. I truly hope these heinous crimes against journalists will come to a stop, or at least be actively prevented from occurring, so that they can continue to exercise their freedom of expression and continue to make our world a better place.