CHRI calls on Commonwealth leaders to protect media freedoms and end impunity for crimes against journalists

CHRI calls on Commonwealth leaders to protect media freedoms and end impunity for crimes against journalists

New Delhi/ London/ Accra, November 2, 2022 - As the world marks this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) calls on Commonwealth leaders to take strong steps to ensure the safety of journalists, end impunity for crimes against them, and work together to preserve the freedom of the press.

CHRI stands firmly in support of journalists around the world who put their lives at risk reporting the truth.

Data maintained by UNESCO reveals that 1,564 journalists have been killed around the world since 1993. Of these, the largest number of journalists were killed in the Asia-Pacific region (673), followed by the Arab world (538), Latin America and the Caribbean (388), Africa (240) and Europe and North America (125).

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) puts this number even higher, at 2,176 (since 1992). Even more alarming is the fact that in nine out of ten cases, the killers have gone unpunished.

Besides killing, which is the most extreme form of press censorship, journalists around the world continue to face threats and attacks, including targeted online harassment, for simply doing their job.

Women journalists are often prime targets for these online attacks. According to the  UNESCO report, ‘The Chilling: Global trends in online violence against women journalists’, 73 percent of women journalists surveyed claimed that they had been “threatened, intimidated and insulted online”.

With a rapid surge in misinformation, hate speech, fake news, and state censorship of the media, the role played by a vigilant and fearless press in preserving democratic principles, and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals assumes unprecedented importance. SDG 16 (target 10) specifically envisages the protection of the right to access information and the safety of journalists.

CHRI strives to contribute to the battle against misinformation through The Media Archive, which maintains a repository of news published during the COVID-19 pandemic in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“Continued attacks on the press and impunity to those who perpetrate them, only serves to create a climate of fear, undermining transparent governance, impeding the flow of information and subverting democracy,” Sneh Aurora, Director, CHRI UK, said. 

“It’s also important to note that unsafe working conditions often end up pushing journalists towards self-censorship,” she added.

Through the Commonwealth Charter, particularly Article 5, member states of the Commonwealth commit “to peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and responsible media, and to enhancing democratic traditions and strengthening democratic processes”.

CHRI urges Commonwealth Law Ministers, when they meet in Mauritius later this month, to recommend the adoption of the media principles  submitted by the Expert Working Group appointed by the Commonwealth Secretariat in 2021, and supported by the Commonwealth Working Group on Media and Good Governance.

We also urge Commonwealth member states to work with civil society organisations to promote the principles and to implement them in practice. We also urge Commonwealth states to commit to a periodic review of the principles to enhance them where required, to address new media developments and to ensure that the Commonwealth aligns itself with the highest international standards. 

For further information, contact:

Media and Communications Office, London


Twitter: @CHRI_UK