UNHCR demands journalists’ rights to freedom of expression.
The General Assembly of the United Nations Human Rights Council, UNHRC, on Thursday raised an alarm over the growing risks to the lives of media practitioners, which has resulted in the death of more than 150 journalists since 2012.
The report said that more than 50 journalists had already been killed in 2013. It added that in more than 90 per cent of the reported cases, perpetrators acted with impunity and there were no investigations or legal procedures undertaken.
In addition, 900 journalists were reportedly arrested; 2,000, threatened or physically attacked; and 40 kidnapped.
UNHRC said, at the on-going Working Group Universal Periodic Review, UPR, programme in Geneva, Switzerland, that it condemned in the strongest terms all attacks and violence against journalists, such as torture, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment.
The Council also expressed concern that there was a growing threat to the safety of journalists posed by non-state actors, including terrorist groups and criminal organisations.
The global agency, which noted that attacks on journalists often occurred with impunity, called upon member states to ensure the entrenchment of accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy and effective investigations into such acts falling within their jurisdiction. It urged that those responsible be brought to justice, and that victims should have access to appropriate remedies.
The UNCHR said that member states must take steps to promote safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference by way of legislative measures, awareness-raising in the judiciary, law enforcement officers and military personnel.
It also pointed out the need for journalists and civil society to pay attention to issues regarding international human rights and humanitarian law obligations and commitments relating to the safety of journalists.
It also asked for the monitoring and reporting of attacks against journalists, public condemnation of such attacks, and the dedication of necessary resources to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.
In his address to the 17th Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Austrian Permanent Mission in Geneva, Thomas Hajnoczi, expressed grave concern over the increasing violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression that have severely resulted in the maiming and death of several journalists all over the world within the last one year.
“Last year marks the most dramatic year on record regarding the killings of journalists. More than 100 killings were recorded in 2012. Not only is the killing of journalists of great concern, but the exercise of their work also often exposes journalists to a whole range of other human rights violations, such as torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention, legal and physical harassment as well as human rights abuses,” the group said.
“Though the adoption by consensus of the first resolution on the safety of journalists by the Human Rights Council last September gave strong political signal regarded as an important milestone, the scale and number of attacks against the physical safety of journalists as well as of incidents affecting their ability to exercise freedom of expression clearly demonstrate that much more needs to be done.”
An international organization established for the protection of journalists, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres), also urged journalists to take extra precaution to safeguard their lives in the course of their professional practice.
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