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OSCE urged to prioritise protection of journalists in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - London and Vilnius, 06.06.11 - On the occasion of the conference on safety of journalists in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region, set to take place from 7-8 June 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, ARTICLE 19 and International Media Support (IMS) are releasing a report titled "No Justice for Journalists in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia: Impunity and Killings of Journalists Go Hand in Hand". The report documents impunity for violence and disappearances of journalists in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine over the last decade. The report shows that the lack of effective investigation into violence against journalists has had a detrimental effect on freedom of expression and facilitated a climate of impunity. The report documents the inadequate response of the Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian governments to disappearances and killings of journalists in the last 10 years.

"None of the perpetrators behind the murders or disappearances of journalists highlighted in the report have been brought to justice. It is first and foremost political will that is missing to address the impunity for these violations," comments Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. "It is crucial that the OSCE prioritise the protection of journalists and increase pressure on these three countries to comply with their international human rights obligations," continued Callamard.

Jane Møller Larsen, Head of the IMS Media and Democracy Unit, adds: "IMS insists that threats, attacks and assassinations of journalists be investigated and punished, not only to give justice to the journalists and their families but also to ensure that media can work professionally - to secure pluralism and diversity of the media and avoid self-censorship - and to make sure that the media can play its very important role in society as a watch-dog."

The report makes recommendations to the authorities in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, as well as to the international community, on the legal and political measures needed to protect journalists and defend the right to freedom of expression in these countries. In the report, ARTICLE 19 and IMS urge the three governments to recognise publicly journalists' vulnerability to violence due to their work, to condemn attacks, deaths and disappearances without prejudice, and to refrain from any negative propaganda about the journalist in question.

The report presses the governments of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine to put in place appropriate and acceptable protection mechanisms for journalists under threat and conduct prompt, effective and independent investigations in cases of violence in order to bring both the perpetrators and the instigators to justice.

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