Saturday, 4 June 2011


On a day when another journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzed, was murdered in cold blood in Pakistan, a “coalition of the willing” met in London to look at impunity, in particular as to why international instruments are not working. On the same day, the Yemeni authorities have intensified their hunt of Yemeni journalists, in particular several lay officials of our member union who are now in hiding.

So it was perfect timing for this initiative, grouping a good chunk of the press freedom industry – NGOs ranging from Article 19 to CPJ -- European and international institutions such as the Human Rights Council, OSCE, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, etc. The main player was however which sent it its Assistant Director General of Communications and Information Janis Karklins. During the one-day conference many of these organisations talked at great length about the killings of journalists. I was the only one representing journalists and I was not even scheduled among the key speakers.

There is no doubt that the Centre for Freedom of the Media from Sheffield and City University universities, that are behind the Initiative on Impunity and the Rule of Law, are genuinely concerned about the killings of journalists and the shortcomings of the working of international instruments. The aim to present the case for more effective international mechanisms to end impunity is indeed laudable. The research was excellent.

Unfortunately, apart from some new thoughts on developing existing systems of mandatory sanctions and expanding the mandate of special rapporteurs, hardly any contributor dealt with the real reasons as to why are the current instruments are not working.

UNESCO believes there may be a need for a new convention and is organising an inter-agency dialogue next Autumn. However its representatives did not explain why UN Security Council 1738 is left to gather dust and the UN did not have the guts to implement it? Why did their Director General only allocated no more that a puny paragraph to this issue in his 60 page annual report?

According to many, it was just “inertia” at work. But Susan Hyland speaking on behalf of the UK Foreign Office did not explain why her government is supporting the Bahraini government when the same government is killing its people and hunting down its journalists. She did not explain why her government never had the guts to call the US military to account for the death of ITV reporter Terry Lloyd who was declared by an inquest to be murdered by US soldiers in Iraq.

Having stronger instruments is welcome and the IFJ will cooperate to pursue relentlessly to end impunity. But until the issue of the hypocrisy and double standards shown by governments is fully exposed and dealt with, journalists will continue to be killed and their murderers allowed getting way with it.

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