Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression Launch Joint Declaration on Crimes against Freedom of Expression
The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank LaRue; the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS), Catalina Botero Marino; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatoviæ; and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Faith Pansy Tlakula; issued a joint declaration in which they state their abhorrence over the unacceptable rate of crimes against freedom of expression, including killings, death threats, disappearances, prosecutions, and imprisonments, which target the media and individuals who play a crucial role in informing society.
In the Joint Declaration, the four rapporteurs maintain that crimes against journalists and other communicators represent attacks not only on the victims but on freedom of expression itself, as they have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and ideas and prejudice the rights of society as a whole. They highlight that the prevailing state of impunity increases the incidence of these crimes. As a result, the Declaration outlines the measures that states should take pursuant to their duty to ensure that crimes against freedom of expression are prosecuted and punished and that victims receive appropriate remedies. The four rapporteurs call on states to carry out independent, speedy, and efficient investigations into these crimes, as well as to foster greater transparency in the investigations. The rapporteurs also observe that independent journalists covering situations of armed conflict do not lose their status as civilians, regardless of the risks to which they are exposed as a result of the conflict. As such, they continue to be protected by the applicable guarantees of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
According to the Declaration, when crimes against freedom of expression are a recurring problem, state authorities should take special steps to prevent them from taking place, such as imposing heavier penalties for these crimes or increasing the applicable statutory limitations periods. In certain circumstances, the creation of specialized investigative units may be warranted. Furthermore, the Declaration stresses the important contribution that individuals who investigate human rights abuses and corruption make to society, and the fact that they are often susceptible to criminal retribution. As such, the rapporteurs urge states to create specialized protection programs where there is an ongoing and serious risk of crimes against freedom of expression and to tailor the protection measures to the needs of the person at risk, taking into account factors such as gender.
With regard to this subject, Catalina Botero stated, "The increase in violence against journalists is truly alarming. The circumstances make it urgent for States to take responsibility for developing more and better measures of prevention, protection, and prosecution in order to stop the recurrence of these crimes, to sanction the responsible parties and to guarantee the right of society to be informed."
According to Frank La Rue, "Any effective action by the State to protect journalists and media workers and outlets begins with the diligent investigation of the crimes against them and the identification, prosecution, and punishment of those responsible, as well as the reparation of the victims."
Dunja Mijatoviæ indicated, "Journalists across the OSCE region and beyond are targeted daily for their critical coverage of politics, the economy, and social affairs, and for investigating crime and corruption. This comprehensive declaration focuses on universal solutions to this modern plague and encourages all governments and other stakeholders to help counter the killings of journalists, as well as the threats and physical attacks they systematically face."
For her part, Pansy Tlakula remarked, "The Declaration is timely because it is adopted at a moment when crimes against freedom of expression are increasing in
The text of the Joint Declaration is available at: Joint declaration 2012-2 EN