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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Journalists must be better protected from attacks, Türk declares

International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

02 November 2023

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights



Journalism is crucial to human rights.

Investigative journalism helps ensure that institutions are transparent and responsive.

Objective information enables people to make sound choices and participate meaningfully in decision-making.

Online and "real life" media serve as watchdogs and early warning systems for the full range of potential human rights violations.

And that is precisely why journalists are so frequently the targets of threats, violence and even murder. Because their work is so crucial to upholding the human rights of us all.

Already this year at least 46 journalists have been killed. Most were probably deliberately murdered, but it's not likely that the perpetrators will be punished; according to UNESCO, 86% of crimes against journalists happen with impunity.

Last year, 363 journalists were imprisoned – a 20% increase over 2021. And more and more journalists are being subjected to abusive lawsuits, on the basis of poorly defined laws on defamation, cyber-libel, antiterrorism, cybersecurity and so-called “fake news.”

Women journalists in particular suffer intolerable levels of online harassment, often leading to attacks in real life.

The extent of impunity for attacks against journalists and other media workers is unacceptable. And over the past decade, the international community has stepped up its attention to this issue. Reports have been published, and resolutions adopted. The existence of this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalist is evidence of this work to bring a spotlight to such crimes.

But the gap is wide between words and actions. Journalists remain at risk, and with a number of highly contested elections approaching, their rights – and ours – need to be better protected.

We need States to step up their monitoring of violations against journalists and media freedom, with laws that safeguard media freedom, in line with international human rights law. And we need much more effective action by police and justice systems to investigate and prosecute crimes that target journalists because of their work.

These commitments are at the heart of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists which was adopted in 2012, and they are essential to fulfilling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 75th anniversary we commemorate this year. It is well past time for action.

Thank you.