PEN International: UN resolution to establish International Day to End Impunity a welcome step

As the number of journalists killed in the course of their work continues to rise, PEN International welcomes the news that the Third Committee of the United Nations has voted to create an international day to protect journalists. The UN General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural committee voted unanimously to make 2 November the annual International Day To End Impunity For Crimes Against Journalists

PEN International and its worldwide community of writers has long campaigned for increased and effective protection for journalists and an end to the climate of impunity that allows attacks against journalists to go unpunished.

‘In parts of the world, impunity is the most insidious challenge to freedom of expression…Justice is compromised,’ said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

‘Crimes against citizens go unreported and unpunished. And in fear for their lives, reporters, bloggers, writers see self-censorship as the only way to survive.’

The resolution unequivocally condemns all attacks, intimidation and violence against journalists and media workers, and calls on all Member States of the UN to promote a safe and enabling environment in which journalists and media workers can work independently and without interference. It also supports the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity – a plan created to assist member states in developing national laws to prosecute the killers of journalists and establish a U.N. inter-agency mechanism to evaluate journalist safety.

PEN International has continuously campaigned for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists around the world. In 2011, the organisation began celebrating the Day of the Dead – which falls on 2 November – as a day when its members remember writers who have been killed and for the deaths of which impunity persists, which has become an annual event.

In 2012 a large PEN International delegation assembled in Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a writer, led by its full executive and representatives of all seven North American PEN Centres. PEN put forward specific recommendations, met with key government figures and held public events.

In late 2012, coinciding with the International Day to End Impunity on 23 November organized by IFEX, of which PEN International is a member, PEN International published the anthology Write Against Impunity, a literary protest highlighting the escalating violence against journalists, writers and bloggers in Latin America – in particular Mexico, Honduras and Brazil – and the impunity enjoyed by those who commit these crimes.

During a follow-up visit to Mexico in March 2013 PEN found that progress to protect writers and journalists had been slow. In a submission to the UPR process, PEN International joined PEN Guadalajara to outline its concerns for the safety of journalists and made series of recommendations to effectively protect journalists.

‘It’s high time that the world paid more attention to the steadily increasing death toll of journalists and this day will be an annual focus’ said Ann Harrison, Programme Director of the Writers in Prison Committee.

‘Journalists’ murderers should understand that the world is watching and will not tolerate these crimes’.

From January to June 2013, PEN International recorded the killings of at least 4 writers, including journalists, in connection with their work. Another 11 were killed for unknown reasons.

The organisation is planning to launch a report on impunity for killings of journalists in Honduras in early 2014.