Bangladesh joins 40th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva
DOT Desk: In an event at the opening day of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, ARTICLE 19 was joined by journalists and civil society from Bangladesh, Brazil, Malta and Turkey to discuss the deteriorating state of press freedom around the world.
The event was co-organized with the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the UN in Geneva, and included the participation of the Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and UN. Lord Ahmad spoke about a planned UK-led global campaign on media freedom for 2019, with a summit to take place in the summer. The UN event was supported by the missions of Austria, Canada, France, Greece, the Netherlands.
“A coordinated campaign from States to protect media freedom is needed”, said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director at ARTICLE 19. “UN resolutions on the safety of journalists contain strong commitments, but much more is needed for States to speak out against States that attack journalists or fail to address impunity, as well as those that routinely and systematically violate media freedom”, he added.
The event heard how 97 journalists were killed in 2018, and that for more historic cases, the impunity rate stands at the staggering rate of 89%.
There were 8 murders of journalists in 2018. Thiago Firbida, the protection coordinator for ARTICLE 19 Brazil, highlighted at the event how Brazil is among one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a journalist. While some progress was noted, including the opening of the Federal Protection Mechanism to include journalists, and the adoption of protocols for responding to cases of attacks, this is not leading to improvements in safety. Denigration campaigns against independent voices defined recent elections in the country, however, and provide a worrying indication of potential backsliding.
In Bangladesh, Masuda Bhatti, Editor-in-Charge The Daily Amader Notun Somoy spoke to particular gender-based threats facing women journalists, especially where they question men in positions of power on issues of corruption or association to extremist groups. The online environment for journalists is particularly hostile, and space is only shrunk further by restrictive legislation like the ICT Act. Even with a new government generally more open to media engagement, misogyny is endemic, and impunity for recent killings means the environment for journalists more generally remains dangerous. Only in 1 out of 8 recent journalists’ murders has anybody been held to account.
Andrew Caruana Galizia spoke movingly to how he and his brothers are campaigning to end impunity for the assassination of his mother, journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. She faced threats as a freelance journalist on the frontlines of reporting corruption in Malta, many of which were also gender-based. Her case highlights the challenges of seeking justice where the connections between organised crime and government have led to the capture of public institutions. For this reason, Andrew urged States to pressure Malta, ahead of the adoption of its Universal Periodic Review in the coming weeks, to accept recommendations to conduct a public inquiry into his mother’s murder.