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Lord Foulkes: ‘Impunity for crimes against journalists must end’

George Foulkes (United Kingdom, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has recalled the fundamental importance of press freedom and the duty in a democratic society to ensure journalists stay safe.

Speaking on the eve of the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (2 November), he said: “There is no effective right to information and no accountable policy-making without media freedom and the opportunity for journalists to look into how public money is spent or investigate corruption and the abuse of power. However, attacks on journalists are continuously on the rise, including threats, harassment, physical aggression, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances and even murder. Unfortunately, our member States do not always ensure thorough investigations into these crimes.”

“According to the 2019 annual report of the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, the authorities have routinely failed to take remedial action to prevent violence against journalists, and to bring to justice all those who committed crimes: from 2015 to date, 25 journalists have been killed in the Council of Europe region, and in 17 cases there has been impunity,” he pointed out.

“These facts are appalling. The lack of an appropriate police and judicial response is totally unacceptable. It encourages further attacks and has a chilling effect on media professionals and also on society at large. Member States must carry out effective, independent and prompt investigations into all crimes against journalists, and bring to justice the authors, instigators, perpetrators and accomplices in accordance with the law. Moreover, member States are required to conduct independent and effective investigations into their own shortcomings if they fail to protect their journalists,” he said.

“I call on our member States to fulfil their obligations and to do everything necessary to end impunity for crimes against journalists,” concluded Lord Foulkes.