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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

International Day to End Impunity: 1 in 10 cases of killings of journalists is resolved



Today, UNESCO hosts the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI), aiming to prompt governments around the world to take stronger actions towards condemning and prosecuting those who commit crimes against journalists. Press advocates explain that the death of journalists is not only an industry-related problem but a threat to democratic society as a whole.

“It’s not because journalists are special people who deserve more attention than others, but because they are defending all rights,“ said Delphine Halgand, U.S. Director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF for its acronym in French), in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “The treatment of journalists gives you an idea of a country’s level of democracy.”

In Latin America, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay were listed among the top twenty countries with the most journalist deaths in 2014 by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The organization ranked Mexico eighth and Brazil 11th in their 2015 Global Impunity Index, which lists countries where murderers of journalists go free.

“Despite the democratization in Latin America, I think that in the last two decades we’ve seen the expansion and growth of transnational organized crime networks that have expanded their sway,” Carlos Lauría, senior Americas program coordinator at CPJ, said in an interview with the Knight Center. “And journalists have been targeted for digging into their illegal activities,”

Latin American countries are mostly constitutional democracies with the exception of Cuba. According to the Economist’s 2014 Democracy Index, a study which evaluates the level of democracy around the globe, Latin America’s democratic progress has been stagnant following the regime changes of the 1970s and 1980s. 

The report stated that weak governance and endemic corruption had been exacerbated by a rise in crime and violence associated with drug-traffickers.

 

According to the International Press Institute, the year 2015 is on track to be the deadliest year for the media since the organization began keeping records in 1997. As of mid-September, it has recorded the deaths of 115 journalists worldwide.

The death toll for journalists killed in Latin America this year ranges from eight to 20, depending on the set of statistics consulted. The variation is due to the fact that press advocacy organizations have different methodologies for determining whether a journalist was killed in retaliation for their work.

“It’s not right that anyone die violently in any circumstance, but when the press is targeted it means the situation is already very grave,” said Pedro Valtierra, director of Mexican newspaper Cuartoscuro.

Cuartoscuro employed Rubén Espinosa, the photojournalist who was brutally murdered in Mexico City along with four women this past July in one of the most high-profile cases of violence against a journalist so far this year. Thousands in Mexico and around the world have rallied to call for investigation into his death and for an end to impunity in the cases of murdered journalists.

The effects of violence against journalists go beyond the damage wrought by the acts themselves. As journalism becomes more dangerous, less and less reporters are willing to cover important subjects.

“The climate of fear is leading to widespread censorship,” Lauría said. “The problem with violence is going way beyond the press and is limiting the possibilities of people to discuss and aggressively debate issues of public interest, and this is clearly limiting democratic progress.”

UNESCO is holding various panels and events to mark IDEI. In Paris, the organization is launching their report "World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development: Special Digital Focus 2015." A London conference looks at possible responses to impunity. And in New York City, a panel led by Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, discusses how to put resolutions against impunity into practice. Live webcasts of these events are available on UN Web TV.

Organizations such as the International Federation of Journalists and IFEX have launched their own campaigns to raise awareness of and end impunity in cases of violence against journalists.

Check with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas for more coverage of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.



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