Koenders: impunity for murderers of journalists must end

All too often those who assault or murder journalists escape punishment. On Sunday, foreign minister Bert Koenders said, ‘The international community must defend journalists’ right to do their work in freedom. Anyone who attacks them should be prosecuted.’

Today, 2 November, is the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The day is an initiative by the UN, following the death of two French journalists in Mali last year. ‘It is dreadful to think that people are being killed for doing such important work,’ said the minister. ‘It’s even worse if the perpetrators are not prosecuted.’

Only one in ten crimes against journalists in the past decade has led to a conviction, according to UN figures. Of the 593 journalists murdered between 2006 and 2013, only six per cent of the cases have been solved. ‘This level of impunity further undermines the freedom of the press. This is particularly troubling, since freedom of the press is an essential human right that serves to safeguard other freedoms,’ Mr Koenders remarked. ‘We cannot allow regimes, groups and terrorists to thwart the work of journalists without consequences.’

On a global scale, freedom of the press has declined significantly over the past few years. This is especially true in countries like Egypt, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq and Syria. ‘In recent years Syria has become one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work, and information-gathering has become extremely difficult,’ Mr Koenders went on to say. In light of this, the foreign minister is asking organisations that are collecting evidence of crimes in Syria to devote attention to offences against journalists as well.

The Netherlands recently supported a UN resolution denouncing impunity for crimes against journalists. The resolution condemned all forms of violence against journalists, both inside and outside conflict zones.