For International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists OSCE Representative Désir urges States to take action and protect journalists

Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. (Quai d’Orsay/Frédéric de La Mure )

VIENNA, 31 October 2019 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, stressed today the need to protect journalists and prosecute those responsible for crimes committed against them, on the occasion of the upcoming International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

“In too many cases, we have seen the perpetrators of crimes against journalists remain free. Around 400 journalists have been killed in the OSCE region in the past 25 years, and less than 15 per cent of murders of journalists have been solved. Statistics like this prove that journalists’ safety must become a higher priority for governments,” said Désir. “This year alone has seen two more journalists killed while carrying out their work, Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland (United Kingdom), and Vadim Komarov in Cherkasy (Ukraine).”

The Representative also paid tribute to those journalists killed in recent years. “Too many journalists have been killed across the OSCE region in recent years. These include Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose family I met during a recent visit to Malta. I hope that the investigation there will identify those responsible for this murder and bring them to justice,” said Désir. “I also think of Ján Kuciak, who was killed in Slovakia last year, and where charges have been brought against four individuals in relation to his murder. I hope that justice can finally be served in this case. The failure to prosecute can create an environment of impunity for those who might attack journalists, and breed further violence.”

“Progress is possible,” added the Representative. “Just last year, in December, the OSCE participating States adopted the important Decision on Safety of Journalists at the Ministerial Council, which highlights the necessity of ending impunity for crimes committed against journalists.”

In particular, the Decision urges participating States to “take effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists, by ensuring accountability as a key element in preventing future attacks, including by ensuring that law enforcement agencies carry out swift, effective and impartial investigations into acts of violence and threats against journalists, in order to bring all those responsible to justice, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies”.

Désir recalled progress on a case in Serbia, where, he said, “we saw this year the conviction of former state officials responsible for the 1999 killing of the journalist Slavko Ćuruvija. This shows that there can be no impunity even for crimes committed 20 years ago. It is paramount that such progress is reflected in many other cases of violence against journalists.”

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