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Germany should use UN Security Council role to promote press freedom

Members of the UN Security Council gather for a meeting on North Korea, at the United Nations in New York, 27 September 2018
Members of the UN Security Council gather for a meeting on North Korea, at the United Nations in New York, 27 September 2018

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 6 November 2018.

Her Excellency Dr. Angela Merkel
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
Willy-Brandt-Straße 1,
10557 Berlin, Germany

Via facsimile: +49.30.184.002605

Dear Chancellor Merkel,

In advance of Germany assuming a new role on the United Nations Security Council in 2019, we at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom advocacy organization, write to request that you use the position to prioritize press freedom and the safety of journalists. The principles of peace and justice were at the heart of your campaign to join the council, and neither of those are possible without a free press.

Globally, press freedom is under attack. According to CPJ research, more journalists are murdered for their work than die in conflict zones, and the number of murders so far this year is sharply higher than in 2016 or 2017. Recently, journalists have been killed because of their work in the United States, Malta, and Slovakia, among many other countries. A record numbers of journalists have been jailed worldwide in the past two years, a trend that is the sole responsibility of U.N. member states.

Perhaps most notable was the monstrous killing of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2 in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. CPJ, along with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Reporters Without Borders, have jointly called on Turkey to ask the U.N. to launch an international investigation into this depraved crime. The calculated murder of Khashoggi - a critical journalist killed by government officials, in their consulate on foreign soil - poses a threat to journalists everywhere, and those responsible must be held to account. In this light, CPJ welcomed the announcement on October 21 that Germany would put a hold on arms exports to Saudi Arabia while the circumstances around Khashoggi's death are unexplained. This type of principled leadership is needed globally.

Germany has played a valuable role in defending journalists and standing up for press freedom. Since August of this year, CPJ has been working to extract several journalists stranded in northern Syria. Germany was among the first countries to respond, and two of the at-risk journalists have already settled there. At a CPJ event during September's General Assembly on the imprisonment of journalists in countries like Egypt, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, Germany spoke up powerfully in defense of a free press.

This month, CPJ met with the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, and we understand that combating climate change and preventing sexual violence against women and girls, including in conflict, are among the priorities for Germany's chairmanship. Often, it is journalists who report on the violations against women in conflict, investigate the causes of environmental degradation, and ensure the public is informed and those in power are held to account. Therefore, we hope you will consider including press freedom as one of your priorities.

Germany has a legacy of publicly criticizing attacks on the press, and has been an important voice for press freedom domestically and internationally, including at the U.N. When journalists are under attack, all of society bears the consequence. We urge you to use your platform as a member of the Security Council to build on this legacy, and to make the safety of journalists and the defense of a free press a strategic priority for the duration of your term.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists

CC: Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, His Excellency Christoph Heusgen
Ambassador of Germany to the United States, Her Excellency Emily Margareth Haber
Kati Marton, CPJ board member and author

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