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German parliament backs RSF initiative

Photographers walk through tear gas during an anti-government protest in Caracas, Venezuela, 2 March 2014
Photographers walk through tear gas during an anti-government protest in Caracas, Venezuela, 2 March 2014

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 23 June 2017.

Germany's parliament has put its weight behind Reports Without Borders' initiative for the creation of a United Nations Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists, the first parliament worldwide to do so. In a resolution passed on Friday 23 June 2017, the Bundestag deputies call on the German government to "support a UN initiative on the safety of journalists and against impunity, and to promote the establishment of Special Representative to oversee compliance by UN members states with their international legal obligations to provide security for journalists and who would report directly to the Secretary General".

"It is an unbearable state of affairs that year after year dozens of journalists around the world get killed simply for doing their job", said RSF Germany's executive director Christian Mihr. "This Bundestag motion is an important signal to finally provide the United Nations with effective tools to enforce the many UN resolutions on the safety of journalists. Now the German government should follow suit and give the initiative for a UN Special Representative on the issue a diplomatic boost by supporting it publicly."

The Bundestag resolution also calls on the German government to determine options to finance the mandate, and to solicit the approval and participation of other states. The motion was introduced by the governing coalition's parliamentary groups of CDU/CSU and SPD.


VICIOUS CIRCLE OF IMPUNITY

Since 2007, at least 711 journalists have been killed worldwide in direct connection with their work. Despite various UN bodies' various resolutions, no significant improvement has been achieved. In many of the countries affected by the issue, the fight against such violent crime against journalists is stagnating.

This applies not only to countries at war like Syria or Iraq, but also to states such as Mexico or the Philippines, where year after year journalists are murdered while the perpetrators and those behind them go unpunished with very few exceptions. Organized crime, corrupt judiciaries as well as politicians and security forces who are often themselves entangled in criminal networks thus keep fueling a vicious circle of impunity: since the killers and those behind them rarely get punished, others are effectively encouraged to imitate them. And there is obviously not enough political will to break the cycle.

For example, in Mexico alone six journalists have already been killed since the beginning of the year. Since President Enrique Peña Nieto came to power in late 2012, at least 27 journalists have been killed in Mexico in direct connection with their work. The victims were usually journalists who had reported about taboo topics such as organized crime or corruption by local authorities. Only after the sixth murder of a journalist this year and after protests in several cities did President Enrique Peña Nieto come forward to condemn the attacks and announce counter-measures.


UN SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE SHOULD BE EMPOWERED TO CONDUCT HIS OWN INVESTIGATIONS

This is where RSF's initiative for a UN Special Representative comes in: in order to have sufficient political weight to put pressure on governments and be able to act quickly when needed, the Special Representative should report directly to the UN Secretary-General. He should also be empowered to conduct his own investigations if states don't investigate after attacks on journalists.

Therefore Reporters Without Borders has been lobbying intensely at the UN since 2015. The campaign aims to convince the UN General Assembly to vote for a UN Special Representative, and to endow him with a strong mandate.

Dozens of non-govermental organizations and media organizations have already backed the initiative for a UN Special Representative. Several governments have also commited to it publicly.

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