Reporters Without Borders welcomes yesterday’s joint declaration by four international experts calling on governments to treat “crimes against freedom of expression” as a special category under criminal law and thereby provide journalists and other news providers with better protection.
The joint call was issued by the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe representative on freedom of the media, the Organization of American States special rapporteur on freedom of expression and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information.
It came just five days after both Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, issued separate reports calling for greater efforts to protect journalists.
“These four experts have issued their joint call for crimes against freedom of expression to be assigned a special status under criminal law, with specific penalties, because they recognize the role that freedom of information plays in society, whether the information providers are professional journalists, citizen journalists or netizens,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“This joint declaration also testifies to the concern these experts feel for the safety of news providers and their awareness of the urgency of the situation. It stresses that governments have an obligation to investigate these crimes, to protect the victims and ensure that they have access to justice.”
Reporters Without Borders hopes that the joint declaration and the two reports will encourage state and non-state actors to adopt concrete measures to protect journalists and to combat impunity for those responsible for acts of violence against them.
“These experts have paved the way,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Now it is up to governments to implement their recommendations and give them binding force as soon as possible.”
A total of 29 professional journalists and at least 12 citizen journalists have been killed since the start of 2012 because of their commitment to providing news and information. Dozens of journalists have also been forced to flee abroad to escape harassment, violence, threats of arbitrary arrest or death. A total of 80 journalists fled into exile in 2011.