Today, 23 November, is the International Day to End Impunity (IDEI). The IFEX community has chosen this day to honour those who have been silenced forever for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to raise awareness that their killers often go unpunished. This day marks the anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre in the Philippines in 2009, which was the single deadliest incident for journalists in recent history and is a solemn reminder of the risks taken to inform the public and speak truth to power. It is also meant to be a day to recognise the work IFEX members and others are doing to combat impunity and to inspire action everywhere to demand justice and advance efforts to stop impunity in the killings of journalists, musicians, artists, politicians, and other free expression advocates.
When it comes to justice for murdered journalists, the 13 least accountable countries are Iraq, Somalia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Mexico, Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brazil and India, according to the Committee to Protect Journalist's (CPJ's) Impunity Index. This Index measures a country's unsolved murders of journalists in proportion to its population.
While some countries have made progress in the investigations of journalists' murders, many others with a track record of letting killers go free worsened or stayed the same. Iraq, which saw a rise in the targeted killings of journalists in 2010, has an impunity rating three times that of any other country, CPJ reports. CPJ pointed to Russia and Colombia with cautious optimism for finally taking measures to punish those who commit crimes against journalists, thus increasing the level of safety for all reporters and advocates.
Impunity is a particularly difficult evil to counter because it is self-reinforcing, notes the International Press Institute (IPI) in a special report entitled "Impunity: a Global Scourge". When governments fail to investigate journalistic killings, it sends a message that the lives of journalists and the work of the media are trivial. Where such a cycle exists, one can speak of a "culture of impunity", which encompasses the idea that the causes of impunity are often embedded within societies at multiple levels and at multiple institutions. Rarely is it possible to identify a single root cause, says IPI.
To kick off the first year of the campaign, each day from 1 November until today, IFEX highlighted a story of a journalist, writer, artist or free expression advocate who was killed on that day for reporting the truth, and whose murderers have gone free. "We were able to find a case of impunity for every day between 1 and 23 November. Sadly, this is a tale that can be told practically every day of the year," said Annie Game, IFEX executive director.
You can still go to http://www.daytoendimpunity.org to take action on the cases and join our global call for justice.
Also on the IDEI website you can read more about the day, connect with IFEX members working on the ground, see the entries of our impunity poster contest and watch and share the powerful video created for the day.
The website also showcases four frontline stories about how members are fighting impunity in Colombia, the Philippines, Russia and the USA. These multimedia projects explore tactics they have used and the lessons they have learned in combating impunity. You can find them here: http://www.daytoendimpunity.org/member_actions. We hope what you find on the site will be of use in your own work and context. You can also roll over the map on this page to learn other tactics that IFEX members are using to combat impunity worldwide on an ongoing basis.