Note: This post was written by Enough Project Intern Chris Griffiths.
Today, the UN marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, condemning all attacks and violence against media workers and urging member states to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists. Over 800 journalists have been murdered in the last decade but only one in ten murders of press members has led to a conviction. These statistics do not take into account torture, sexual violence, disappearances, or non-fatal attacks. Stemming from UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163, the UN urges member states to condemn all violence against journalists and demands accountability for any actions taken against the press.
In South Sudan, the government has clamped down on free expression, detained journalists without trial, and shut down newspapers. In August last year, journalist Peter Moi was killed by gunmen, one of seven South Sudanese journalists murdered in 2015. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) listed South Sudan among the top five countries in its 2015 Global Impunity Index. The Index ranks countries where at least five journalists have been murdered without a single perpetrator being convicted.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a recent report by the Enough Project, “Peaceful but demanding criticism of the government by independent journalists and human rights activists has resulted in several alleged assassinations since 2006, as with journalist Serge Maheshe in 2008 or human rights activist Floribert Chebeya who was killed in 2010.” Leaders in Congo have used violence to silence dissenting opinions spread by press. Journalist detention, harassment, mugging, and beating have been used to quell dissent. According to CPJ, in three-fourths of journalist murder cases, there were no convictions.
However, tools exist to help end impunity for those violently repressing journalists and to protect freedom of press. The proposed Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act creates a framework for the United States to impose sanctions on individuals who misappropriate state assets and attack journalists and human rights advocates, and bolsters the congressional role in doing so. As Enough Project has previously stated, “…passing the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act would provide the president with the authority to place sanctions on government officials who misappropriate state assets as well as the perpetrators of attacks against journalists and human rights defenders.” Furthermore, this act serves as a two-pronged attack – working to protect journalists while disrupting the ability of kleptocrats to rule through violence and resource theft.
The UN states, “…impunity for attacks against journalists constitutes one of the main challenges to strengthening the protection of journalists.” Violence against the press is unacceptable, and accountability measures must be put in place to end this culture.
For more on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, click here.