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International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists: Standing together to bolster the safety of journalists

Today we join the world to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists was set aside to highlight the violations that journalists experience, in commemoration of the assassination of two French Journalist in Mali in 2013.

According to the United Nations (UN), more than 800 journalists have been killed for doing their work over the past decade. In 2015 alone 115 journalists were killed, marking the deadliest year in the last decade after 2012, which posted 124 killings according to UNESCO’s figures.

“From 2006 to 2016, no less than 930 journalists were killed. In 2016 alone, we saw the loss of 102 journalists in the line of duty,” stated Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. What is more troubling is that the perpetrators of such crimes are never brought to justice and this impunity is of great concern.

UNESCO Director-General’s 2016 Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity showed that the number of journalists in Africa has risen to 115 in 2015 from 11 in 2014. In Africa in 2015 South Sudan recorded the highest number of journalists killed with seven, and Somali saw the killing of five journalists.

Read: Harassment of journalists across Africa a concern

File picture. Zimbabwean journalists take to the streets of Harare 03 May 2006 to mark the World Press Freedom Day. ANP/AFP Photo / Str

Somalia leads the global index in terms of impunity when it comes to journalists’ murder, according to the newly released Committee to Protect Journalist Report, Getting Away with Murder.  Also on the list is South Sudan, where local journalists covering politics and war were targeted, and Nigeria, where journalists were a target of Boko Haram.

Some leaders across the continent have come under scrutiny for their interference with media freedom. Rwanda recently introduced a new media law that will see journalists insulting President Paul Kagame jailed for seven years.

Read: Africa in 90 seconds as Ikenna explores the dangers facing journalists in Africa

In Tanzania, the government has banned the fourth newspaper since June 2017 and temporarily taken off air two radio stations, raising concerns over press freedom in the country. The papers were shut down for linking President John Magufuli to scandals and allegedly tarnishing his name and image.

Harassment of journalists across Africa a concern. Cartoon: Roland Polman
Harassment of journalists across Africa a concern. Cartoon: Roland Polman/This is Africa

Meanwhile two journalist were arrested, and charges brought against a media house in Zimbabwe early 2017 for posting a story about President Robert Mugabe’s health.

There have also been concerns on threats faced by female journalist, including online harassment.

Such incidences have led to the drop in rank of 37 African countries in the Reporters without Borders annual Index. Burundi fell four places to 160 and Egypt to 161 (two place down) to join Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea and Libya at the bottom of the index.

In her message for the day, UNESCO’s Director-Genera Bokova, acknowledging the work journalists perform in advancing fundamental freedoms, calling for stakeholders to ensure that justice is done for every journalist killed.

“This is essential for their memory —  it  is  vital  to  strengthen  the  rule  of  law  and  good  governance,  and  take  forward  the  2030  Agenda  for  Sustainable  Development,  specifically  Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions,” she said.

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