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UN human rights expert urges states to strengthen journalist security

International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists - Wednesday 2 November

GENEVA (1 November 2016) – Speaking ahead of the third International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, urges states to bring their understanding of what security of journalists involves into line with international human rights standards and to take active steps to ensure this security.

“Attacks against journalists and threats to their security take various forms: attacks against their physical integrity; interference with the confidentiality of their sources; and harassment through surveillance, just to mention a few.

Protection against these kinds of attacks is fundamental not only for journalists to be able to perform their work, but also for society’s access to information and for government accountability. 

States have a positive obligation to ensure the security of journalists. All too often, however, governments express support for journalist security while taking measures that chip away at protection and thus at the information brought to light by secure reporting.

Especially worrisome are increased threats against the digital security of journalists through measures such as mass or targeted surveillance, blocking of online media sites, and practices or laws limiting or prohibiting encryption.

The international legal framework protects the digital and physical security of journalists. The UN Human Rights Council adopted earlier this year a resolution on the safety of journalists, addressing both their physical and digital security. I have also addressed the issues of source protection, encryption and assault on reporting in three of my previous reports*.

Journalists who lack digital security find themselves and their sources subject to great physical threat, and yet physical attacks continue to be met with impunity. We see national leaders using rhetoric that encourages a lack of respect for the life and work of journalists.

According to the latest figures by the independent Committee to Protect Journalists, 52 journalists and media workers have been killed so far this year. In most of these cases, states do not take even the basic steps to begin to bring perpetrators to justice.

I urge all States to take steps to reverse this situation and make accountability – in law, policy and practice – a fundamental aspect of their support for journalism and the public’s access to information.”

(*) See the Special Rapporteur’s 2015 reports to the Human Rights Council (A/70/361 and  A/HRC/29/32), and the 2016 report to the UN General Assembly (A/71/373): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/Annual.aspx

Mr. David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, Mr. Kaye is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Mr. Stefano Sensi (+41 22 917 9237 / ssensi@ohchr.org), Ms. Azin Tadjdini (+41 22 917 9400 / atadjdini@ohchr.org) or write to freedex@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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