U.N.: Time to end impunity for crimes against journalists

11/22/2018, midnight
Nov. 2, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization issued their annual report from Brussels on the safety of ...
United Nations General Assembly hall

Nov. 2, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization issued their annual report from Brussels on the safety of journalists and the danger of impunity, saying one journalist or media personnel is killed every four days.

The report says that 1,293 journalists have been killed since 1993, including more than 80 recorded so far this year. UNESCO statistics show that in 89 percent of the cases, the perpetrators go unpunished. Nov. 2 was established through a U.N. General Assembly resolution. The date was chosen to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists, who were killed on that date in the African nation of Mali, while on assignment.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general, said in her message, “The fight against impunity is inseparable from the defense of fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of access to information.”

“Obviously it is a major problem—assaults on journalists,” states U.N. Blogger Matthew Lee, publisher of Inner City Press, during an interview with the AmNews. Lee said he welcomed the news that a group of Saudis were arrested by Saudi officials over their alleged role in Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, some of them face the death penalty.

Newspaper headlines have constantly called attention since Oct. 2 to the disappearance of Khashoggi, known as a critic of the royal kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “Not to dismiss the Khashoggi case, but I have been reporting on how two dozen journalists in Cameroon are being locked up for straight news reporting,” Lee said.

He argues that the U.N. must begin at home with fighting against violence against journalists, citing his problem with the world body in New York City, which has been well chronicled. The Independent (U.K.) stated, “U.N. roughs up and bans investigative reporter long considered thorn in side of world body officials. Mr. Lee has written about U.N. connection in Haiti, Burundi, Sri Lanka and other nations.”

There are three regions throughout the world that have recorded the highest numbers of killings of journalists in 2016-2017: Arab states, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Asia Pacific, according to the UNESCO report. In 2017, killings of journalists in Asia and the Pacific surpassed those that occurred in the Arab states. In both years, less than 10 percent of the killings took place in Africa, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and North America, the report stated.

Observers say they sense a growing anti-journalist atmosphere in the United States—pointing a finger at Washington.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president and CEO of the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers Association, mentioned the “increasing daily threats to the free press from the White house” as he issued the following: “Please be advised that NNPA’s national office has received rightwing threats in the wake of our presenting the 2018 NNPA National Leadership Award to Congresswoman Maxine Waters.”

April Ryan, a Black White House reporter who has become the face of White House disrespect for members of the Black press, told the Hollywood Reporter in October she hired a bodyguard for protection. The UNESCO report suggests that female journalists are often at greater risk for being targeted not only for their reporting but also because of their gender.

The National Association of Black Journalists Black Press Task Force Chair Tene Croom reminded the AmNews of the history of threats and violence against the Black press during the era of the civil rights struggle.

“When you think about the courage of the Black journalists who went into the South who were under attack for covering the news during that time—1950s and 1960s—they didn’t have any bodyguards,” Croom said.

Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post, explained to the AmNews that he experienced personally the violence against Black journalists when in 2007 his editor, Chauncey Bailey, was murdered while covering a local story. According to news reports, two men were finally convicted in 2011.

“I have been threatened because of stories we cover,” he said. The Black press nationally must defend our reporters as a way of showing our solidarity. “We also need to join onto the UNESCO report,” he added. “We should speak out and speak up!”