International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
02 November 2023
As this year marks the 10th anniversary of the proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly of 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina calls for zero tolerance for any attacks against journalists.
In its last report, UNESCO highlights that journalists and media workers around the world continue face many forms of violence simply for performing their critical role of transmitting information of public interest, including covering elections and demonstrations. More and more journalists are subjected to abusive lawsuits. UNESCO documented that 86% of crimes against journalists happen with impunity. Intimidation, threats and attacks against journalists create a climate of fear, impacting the free circulation of information and fundamentally threatening everyone’s right to freedom of opinion and expression.
In a report on the safety of journalists and access to information in Bosnia and Herzegovina published in 2022, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina observed that journalists increasingly face political and economic pressure, threats, including death threats, online violence, and other forms of intimidation.
Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are increasingly used by politicians and others to silence independent media outlets as well as legislative initiatives. The recent recriminalization of defamation by Republika Srpska and the draft Republika Srpska Law on the Special Registry and Publicity of the Work on Non-Profit Organizations, which would apply to some media and media organizations, are of utter concern. United Nations Special Rapporteurs issued communications in that regard, calling for the withdrawal of such legislation. The United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina echoes the concerns of the Special Rapporteurs and reiterates its call to repeal the criminalization of defamation and to withdraw the draft Law on non-profit organizations.
"Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that is essential to foster democratic societies. Ongoing legislative developments are making the environment for the safe and free exercise of journalism even more challenging", stresses the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ingrid Macdonald. She added that such developments are not compliant with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s human rights obligations and commitments, nor with the European Union priorities for accession.
"In cases of threats and violence against journalists, international human rights law requires that Bosnia and Herzegovina complies with its positive obligation to prevent, protect and provide justice, in order to guarantee a safe environment for journalists", says Siniša Šešum, Head of the UNESCO Antenna in Sarajevo.
The United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina urges all competent authorities across the country to respect the work of journalists and to take all possible measures to ensure accountability for any attacks against them. As underscored today by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, "We need much more effective action by police and justice systems to investigate and prosecute crimes that target journalists because of their work". This is critical to foster an environment where a pluralistic, free and independent media can flourish at the benefit of all.