November 23rd: International Day to End Impunity

Article published on Nov. 21, 2011
Article published on Nov. 21, 2011
by Natali Lekka, freelance translator, writer and a member of the Association of European Journalists.
She tweets @natalilekka

In a recent IFEX Strategy conference in Beirut, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) declared November 23 as the International Day to End Impunity ; a call to action to demand justice for all those journalists who have been killed in the line of duty for reporting the truth. The date marks the anniversary of the single deadliest attack on journalists in recent history: the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines.

The statistics are staggering. More than 500 journalists have been killed in the past 10 years and in nine out of ten cases their killers have gone free. Most of these cases remain unsolved up to this day. According to an Impunity Index for 2011 published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Iraq remains the deadliest country for journalists with 92 unsolved murder cases having taken place in the past 10 years. The Philippines and Somalia follow closely after that.

Impunity was a topic thoroughly

discussed in the Association of European Journalists’ (AEJ) General Assembly in Bucharest, 10 -13 November, 2011; an event successfully organized by the Association’s Romanian Section. A demand was made for Turkish authorities to stop abusing freedom of expression laws to prosecute journalists. The resolution was unanimously voted by over 60 journalists from 17 European countries. More precisely, the Congress called on Turkey to drop what appear to be fabricated and unfounded charges against the journalists Nedim Sener, and Ahmet Şık among many others.

impunity_2.jpg Nedim Sener, an investigative reporter of Milliyet newspaper, has already spent 250 days in pre-trial detention and faces trial on terrorism charges following the publication of his book about the 2007 murder of fellow-journalist and editor Hrant Dink. Ahmet Şik was detained in relation to his book about alleged links between Turkey’s powerful Fethullah Gulen movement and the police.

But Turkey is not the only country with a very high number of criminal prosecutions against journalists. There have been many other cases where journalists have disappeared from the face of the earth in the most obscure of ways. In an article written by William Horsley AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative and Chairman for AEJ’s UK Section, I was appalled to read about the case of Vasil Klementiev, a Ukrainian journalist known for reporting on crime and corruption. There is still no news as to what may have happened to him, a year later, after he disappeared last August 11, while he was out investigating a story. Only his mobile phone was found floating in a local reservoir. His trail has now gone cold.

Prompted by the same article, I searched for the name ‘Oleg Kashin’ on the internet, to find a leaked video on YouTube from a closed circuit TV camera. In a dark Moscow street, a man, reported to be 30-year old investigative reporter Oleg Kashin, is attacked repeatedly and struck with full force by two men wielding metal bars as the victim lies helplessly on the ground. The attack took place last November and Kashin managed to survive with heavy injuries.

There is a way to take action against these crimes, maintains the IFEX. Each day, leading up to the International Day to End Impunity on November 23, there will be a new story on the ‘Day to End Impunity’ website of a journalist, writer, artist or free expression advocate who was killed in the line of duty on that day and whose case remains unresolved. You can now learn more about each case and demand justice by writing to their authorities.

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) is a global network of organizations working to defend and promote the right to freedom of expression. This initiative is a call for action to demand justice for those who have been killed for exercising their right to freedom of expression and shed light on the issue of impunity.