IPI General Assembly Adopts Six Resolutions Calling for Greater Press Freedom
Journalists’ Safety, Secrecy and Anti-Terrorism Laws at the Top of IPI’s Concerns
VIENNA, June 28, 2012 - Meeting at their annual general assembly on June 25, the members of the International Press Institute (IPI) unanimously passed six resolutions calling on international organisations to rigorously address the issue of journalists’ safety; on the Mexican Federal Government to end impunity for the killers of journalists; on the Ethiopian Government to stop using anti-terror laws to jail journalists; on Turkey to respect media freedom; on South Africa to scrap its “Secrecy Bill”; and on governments around the world to respect the right of journalists to protect their sources and work with classified information.
The full text of the IPI General Assembly Resolutions appears below:
IPI General Assembly Resolutions
Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
June 25, 2012
- IPI General Assembly Resolution Calling on the Mexican Federal Government to Protect Journalists and End Impunity for the Killers of Journalists in Mexico
The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 61st Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on June 25, 2012 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on the Mexican federal government to protect journalists and to end impunity for their killers.
Five journalists have been killed in Mexico so far this year - all in a tragic 30-day span in April and May. Mexico was the world's deadliest country for the media in 2011 with 12 journalists killed, according to IPI's Death Watch. A total of 53 journalists have lost their lives for reasons related to their work since the government began an aggressive campaign to combat drug trafficking and organised crime in 2006.
Few of these often gruesome cases are investigated and the perpetrators and masterminds are almost never brought to justice.IPI members resolved that the Mexican federal government holds ultimate responsibility for guaranteeing the safety of all journalists working within its borders - including those covering the ongoing conflict between the government and organised crime and drug traffickers.
As violence mounts and government corruption at the municipal and state levels persists, Mexican journalists are in more danger than ever. Fearing for their safety, an increasing number of reporters and media establishments have stopped covering the drug cartels and organised crime. This self-censorship severely restricts the Mexican people's basic right to information about critical public issues - thereby threatening democracy itself. IPI members said they were aware of the complexity of the public safety challenge confronting Mexico.
IPI members called upon government officials at all levels to cease harassment of, and violence against, journalists and to uphold their duty to the citizens of Mexico by bringing the perpetrators of harassment or violence to justice.
IPI members called in particular upon the winner of Mexico's July 1 presidential election to immediately prioritise journalist safety following inauguration, and to implement recently passed legislation designed to protect journalists and combat impunity.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), with which IPI has a co-operation agreement, fully supports this resolution.
- IPI General Assembly Resolution on Journalists’ Safety
The members of the International Press Institute, meeting at their 61st annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on June 25 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on the United Nations and other international and regional organisations to develop and implement a more effective system to address impunity in violent attacks and murders of journalists around the globe.
The failure of state institutions to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against journalist has proven to promote violence aimed at silencing journalists. UN bodies, programmes and agencies dedicated to the protection of human rights carry a duty to ensure that member states fulfill their obligations in the field of human rights. Ensuring journalists’ right to report freely and without fear of retaliation as well as their right to justice when they are attacked is a duty that member states must carry out.
In order to underline the need for member states to reinforce their independent investigation of crimes against journalists and the prosecution of their perpetrators, IPI members called on the UN Human Rights Commission to monitor member states’ performance on impunity when journalist are attacked.
Furthermore, in order to promote swifter progress in the prosecution of those responsible for crimes against journalists, IPI members called on UN bodies, programmes and agencies dedicated to the protection of human rights to set up a task force of investigators to work with member states with the aim of ending impunity.
Finally, IPI members condemned efforts by some UN members states to prevent the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. That plan recently adopted is aimed at coordinating efforts by various UN agencies, funds and programmes in the field of journalists’ safety and to develop a single, strategic and harmonized approach that would have greater impact.
- IPI General Assembly Resolution Calling on the Ethiopian Government to stop using Anti-Terror Laws to Jail Journalists, and to Respect Press Freedom
The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 61st Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on 23 June 2012 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on the Ethiopian government to stop the use of anti-terror laws to jail journalists for doing their job and to respect freedom of the press.
IPI members noted an appalling deterioration of press freedom and freedom of expression in Ethiopia over the past year during which five journalists have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes.
The verdict in the trial of Eskinder Nega, an online writer and critic of the Ethiopian government, was expected on Jun e 27, 2012. Nega was arrested in September 2011 and jailed after having criticised the use of anti-terrorism laws to jail journalists and opposition figures. He is accused of a range of terrorism-related crimes for which he could face the death penalty.
Other journalists already convicted of terrorism within the last year include: Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of the now-defunct Awramba Times, and Reyot Alemu of Feteh newspaper, who were sentenced to 14 years in prison in January 2012. The U.S. – based editor of the Ethiopian Review website, Elias Kifle, who had been tried in absentia, was given a life sentence. All three were convicted of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, and of money laundering. The evidence presented against them was largely related to their online writings and calls for peaceful protest, according to human rights groups.
In December 2011, Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johann Persson were sentenced to 11 years in prison for aiding terrorists. They were arrested while travelling with insurgents in the Ogaden region.
Journalists covering the recent terrorism trials have also been harassed. In late April, Temesgen Desalegn, the chief editor of Feteh newspaper, was found guilty of “biased reporting” and fined after publishing an op-ed article by an opposition politician.
Pointing out that dissent and criticism of the authorities cannot be equated with terrorism and that journalists should not be prosecuted under Anti-Terror legislation, IPI members called for the immediate and unconditional release of journalists jailed under terrorism laws in Ethiopia.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), with which IPI has a co-operation agreement, fully supports this resolution.
- IPI General Assembly Resolution Calling on Turkey to Respect Media Freedom
The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 61st Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on 25 June, 2012 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on Turkey to free the many journalists imprisoned because of their work and to respect freedom of the press.
IPI members also demanded that the government ensure that journalists facing charges are afforded due process and that the conditions under which they are detained are improved. The members also demanded that the government ensure that attackers of journalists are held to account and do not enjoy impunity.
IPI members noted that the press freedom situation in Turkey has deteriorated markedly in the last year. After a detailed study, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović disclosed in April 2012 that the number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey jumped from 57 in April 2011 to 95 in April 2012, and that about 100 journalists remain in prison.
The figures show that Turkey is one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists and IPI members said they were concerned that many of these journalists appear to have been imprisoned for their work, despite official denials. IPI members expressed concern that Mijatovic’s investigations showed that journalists were frequently jailed for ``exceptionally long’’ terms under criminal and anti-terrorism laws which were broadly framed. The IPI members called on law makers in Turkey to redraft laws to prevent them from being used against journalists carrying out their duties and so that they will prohibit extended pre-trial detentions, excessive prison sentences and publication bans.
The IPI members pointed out that journalists’ right to cover sensitive topics, including national security, is fundamental, and that they should not face arrest, criminal charges, imprisonment or any other penalty for doing their job. Many journalists also face multiple trials.
The members further resolved that lawmakers in Turkey who are currently drafting a new Constitution should include language clearly recognising the right to media freedom.
- IPI General Assembly Resolution Affirming the Right of Journalists to Protect Their Sources and Work With Leaked Classified Information
The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 61st Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on June 23, 2012 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution reaffirming the rights of journalists to use leaked information and to protect their sources, and called on governments to respect these rights.
Journalists must be allowed to possess and use leaked documents. Further, they must be permitted to keep the sources of such information confidential so that whistle-blowers can reveal information in the public interest without fear of prosecution
Journalists play a key role in ensuring government transparency and accountability, which at times requires the publication of classified information in the public interest.
While there is a legitimate need for governments to keep some information secret to protect national security, the guidelines for the classification of information must be as narrowly defined as possible and a public interest defence must be available for those who reveal or publish such information.
Indeed, the right to source protection has been recognized by international bodies including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Bearing this in mind, IPI members expressed alarm at recent efforts by authorities in democratic countries, including the United States, Israel and South Africa, to undermine the rights of journalists to protect their sources and to work with classified information. IPI members condemned efforts by the United States to force journalists to reveal their sources and to reverse recognition of reporters' professional standards. IPI members called on South Africa to redraft the Protection of Information Bill, which would criminalise the possession of classified information.
IPI members further called on Israel to drop charges against reporter Uri Blau, who faces prosecution for the possession of classified documents that he used to write reports alleging misconduct by the armed forces.
IPI members also called on all governments around the world to uphold reporters' rights to protect their sources and to possess and disseminate classified information in the public interest. These rights do not serve journalists alone, but serve the entire public, which has a right to access of information that affects the lives and choices of citizens.
- IPI members support call by several member states of the UN Human Rights Commission to scrap "Secrecy Bill"’ because it will restrict press freedom
The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 61st annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on June 25 2012 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, by unanimous vote expressed strong support for the call by 10 nation states at a recent meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission for South Africa’s bill for the Protection of State Information to be withdrawn or redrafted so that it complies with international human rights standards.
The nation states, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden and the US, expressed grave concern that the bill if enacted would restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
The media in South Africa has vigorously opposed the bill, which has been labelled the "Secrecy Bill". The main grounds of their opposition are that the law will be applied too widely, give the State Security Minister excessive powers, has failed to provide a public interest defence for journalists and whistle-blowers and contains punitive punishments of jail sentences ranging from three years to 25 years.
Media organisations and opposition political parties in the country have stated that if the bill is passed in its present form they will refer it to the Constitutional Court to rule on its constitutionality.
IPI members call on the South Africa government to immediately draft a new bill that will comply with the country’s constitution and its international obligations. IPI reminds the government that an essential element in the conduct of the democracy that it introduced to the country in 1994 is the dissemination of public interest information so that the public should be adequately informed.