UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in New York on Monday that a free and open press was part of the bedrock of democracy and development
He said this in a message to mark the first-ever International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
Ban insisted that protecting the safety of journalists and ensuring that crimes committed against them do not go unpunished is ever more important in today’s changing times.
“This is in order to build transparent societies and keep citizens around the world informed.’’
He said it was so unfortunate that people were scared to speak out about corruption, political repression or other violations of human rights.
“This must stop, and by ending impunity, we deepen freedom of expression and bolster dialogue and together let us stand up for journalists.
“Let us stand up for justice, and protect the journalists,’’ he added.
The UN chief said more than 700 journalists had been killed for doing their job in the past 10 years.
“It is so unfortunate, in just the past year, some 17 Iraqi journalists had been executed, while elsewhere many more had suffered from intimidation, death threats and violence.
“Moreover, nine out of 10 cases go unpunished, which only serves to embolden criminals,” he added.
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said the majority of journalists were covering local stories and living in a climate of impunity.
Bokova said such circumstances allow perpetrators to continue attacks without restraint, further crippling the free flow of information, and depriving society of sources of significant information.
She said the threat was grave, and on average, one journalist is killed per week.
“I appeal to all governments to ensure a swift and thorough investigation every time a journalist is killed and to all partners for stronger cooperation to enhance the safety of journalists,” she said.
Bokova said freedom of expression was a basic human right and very essential for human dignity, rule of law and good governance.
UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa called on UN member states to take all necessary measures to promote a safe working environment for journalists and to prosecute crimes against them.
“For a safer world for journalists is a better world for all of us,” he said.
November 2nd was proclaimed in a resolution on the safety of journalists adopted by the UN General Assembly this year, with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated to lead its implementation.
The date marks the assassination of two journalists – Gislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in Mali in 2013.