GCRL calls for a more active UN role in combating impunity for crimes against journalists


 GENEVA – On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, a day observed annually on 2 November, the Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties ( GCRL) recalls the continuing attacks against journalists around the world, and the impunity for their perpetrators.

GCRL expresses concerns over the alarming figures of CPJ’s annual Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries, including Arab countries, where journalists are singled out for murder and their killers go free. Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and South Sudan ranked four worst on the list, in order, as wars and political instability perpetuate the cycle of violence and lawlessness.

The United Nations released shocking figures that in the past fourteen years (2006-2019), close to 1,200 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished.  Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and judicial systems.

15 journalists have been so far killed in 2020 worldwide, which is higher than the number in 2019. According to CPJ’s annual Global Impunity Index, during the 10-year index period ending August 31, 2020, 277 journalists were murdered for their work worldwide and in 86% of those cases, no perpetrators have been successfully prosecuted. Last year, CPJ recorded complete impunity in 85% of cases.

Geneva Council notes that this year many events and legal developments entrenching the policy of impunity.

On December 23, a court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced five people to death and jailed three others over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and three others were acquitted. On September 7, the Court had sentenced five of those convicted in January to 20 years in prison, and that the three others had received sentences of between seven and 10 years.

Khashoggi was assassinated in a horrific crime on October 2, 2018. He was tortured, murdered, hacked into pieces a bone saw, and burned by a Saudi security squad, according to Turkish investigations. Some individuals had confessed to the murder and Saudi officials said the journalist was killed in a “rogue operation”.

Geneva Council believes that the Saudi investigations and the proceedings of trials are unfair and a form of covering up the crime and the main perpetrators responsible for directing the assassination order. The trials lacked the minimum standards of a fair trial and failed to achieve accountability and fairness.

The Belgrade Appeals Court announced on September 7, that it had overturned the convictions of four former Serbian State Security officers involved in the 1999 killing of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija. It is expected that the defendants will be retried, according to news reports, despite the investigation into the killing of Korovia, which was led by a joint committee composed of journalists and government officials, were transparent and an example of combating impunity.

In Slovakia, a criminal court on September 3 issued an acquittal ruling in favor of a widely-influenced businessman suspected of masterminding the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée 2018. According to news reports, the family of the murdered journalist pledged that they would appeal the verdict. Kuciak was one of two journalists covering corruption in the European Union who were killed within six months. The second journalist was journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, who was killed in 2017 and no one has been convicted of the crime.

Illustrating the entrenched nature of impunity, the 12 countries on the index account for 80% of the global total of unsolved murders of journalists for the 10-year index period. All 12 have featured multiple times since CPJ first compiled the index in 2008, and seven have appeared every year.

Global Impunity Index

Index rank Country Population* Unsolved murders
1 Somalia 15.4 26
2 Syria 17.1 22
3 Iraq 39.3 21
4 South Sudan 11.1 5
5 Afghanistan 38 13
6 Mexico 127.6 26
7 Philippines 108.1 11
8 Brazil 211 15
9 Pakistan 216.6 15
10 Bangladesh 163 7
11 Russia 144.4 6
12 India 1366.4 17
*In millions. Source: World Bank’s 2019 World Development Indicators

Geneva Council says tha impunity is not only limited to murders of journalists, but rather non-fatal attacks, including torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment in times of conflict and peace alike, most of which remained without accountability or punishment for their perpetrators.

Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties calls upon the international community to stop the cover-up to protect some countries that commit violations, including: Israel and Saudi Arabia, that commited crimes and violations against journalists but were not held accountable. GCRL considers that continued impunity for attacks on journalists constitutes a major obstacle to freedom of the press and its ability to perform its professional role, and prevents it from tackling sensitive topics in society, through self-censorship and the absence of independent  journalism.

On this occasion, Geneva Council affirms that it’s high time to move beyond statements of condemnation, to adopt clear mechanisms of accountability, and to ensure the practice of press freedom to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work without fear that he may pay with his life. GCRL calls on the United Nations to do their utmost to curb impunity for crimes against journalists, activating its own measures to protect journalists, and ensuring accountability for perpetrators of violations, especially those that affect the rules of international law.


The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163. The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013. This landmark resolution condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. It also urges Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies. It further calls upon States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference.


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