Coalition urges Trudeau to support UN 'journalists' protector'

Flickr/Kat Northern Lights Man

A coalition of media organization and press freedom groups have joined forces on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists to call on the Canadian government to publicly endorse the campaign to appoint a Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the safety of journalists.

The joint letter was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion. The letter cites research showing that 787 journalists and media personnel were killed while exercising their profession over the last 10 years, including 77 in 2015 alone. In nine out of 10 cases these crimes remain uninvestigated and unpunished. With the loss of these journalists, the right to information for hundreds of millions of citizens is shattered.

There has never been a more dangerous time for journalists. They are being killed and imprisoned worldwide in record numbers. Whether covering conflict, crime or corruption, journalists often have to put themselves at great risk in order to do their job effectively and when they are threatened, attacked or killed, the crimes against them too often are committed with impunity.

"By endorsing the creation a concrete mechanism to coordinate and give real political weight to UN efforts on the safety of journalists, Canada can help fulfill its international commitments to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, and ensure accountability for perpetrators of crimes against journalists," says Tom Henheffer, CJFE's Executive Director. "Canada is a global haven for persecuted journalists; it can be a world leader in helping to end impunity."

There have been various resolutions adopted in the past decade, including by the Security Council and the General Assembly, dedicated to this issue. Despite this, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his August 2015 report on the safety of journalists, acknowledges the world's "failure to reduce the frequency and scale of targeted violence that journalists face and the near absolute impunity for such crimes."

These strong resolutions will continue to be little more than empty words without a concrete mechanism to assure the compliance of member states with their obligations. 

Only a Special Representative, working closely with the UN Secretary General, will have the political weight, the capacity to act quickly and the legitimacy to coordinate with all UN bodies to implement change.

Giving the Special Representative a central and permanent position under the UN Secretary General aegis would significantly empower the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of impunity and all UN efforts.

The joint letter was signed by the following organizations:

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Rogers Media

Canadian Association of Journalists

Canadian Freelance Union

CWA/SCA Canada

Centre for Free Expression

Canadian Freelance Union

Fahmy Foundation

Newspapers Canada

National Newsmedia Council

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CJFE's Campaign to End Impunity is part of a global call for accountability for crimes that silence the voices of activists, journalists, bloggers, artists and others exercising their right to free expression. To learn more about the campaign, click here.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and abroad. We promote a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free expression rights of all people, and encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others' free expression rights. 

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