Marking the first International Day To End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

Harper, Kerry and Baird
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister John Baird to his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, on October 28, 2014, as the Secretary visited to pay condolences following last week’s attacks and for a series of bilateral meetings. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

This Sunday, we will mark the first ever International Day To End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, an initiative of the UN General Assembly. This is a good idea. But I would say that. I’m a journalist. Who once had thugs hired by Egypt’s secret police put a machete to my chest and the chest of my TVA cameraman. It all turned out Ok for the two of us but for way, way, way too many journalists around the world, bad things happen.

Now, I’ve got some issues with the way U.S. President Barack Obama tries to control the press, eavesdrop on the press, and otherwise work hard to interfere with the work of reporters in his capital. That said, I’m very happy to see this statement from his Secretary of State John Kerry. (Haven’t seen anything similar from any Canadian official)

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 1, 2014

The danger that journalists face in pursuing and publishing the truth was really driven home for me earlier this year when I visited Kyiv. As we were driving to the airport, our Ambassador pointed out a makeshift memorial on the side of the road where a journalist who dared to criticize the ousted regime was pulled from her car and beaten within an inch of her life.

This experience once again put a human face on some chilling statistics: A journalist has been murdered almost every week in the last decade for daring to report the truth. And worldwide, less than 10 percent of crimes against journalists lead to arrest or punishment.

When there isn’t a vibrant press like the one we’re blessed with in America, it’s no surprise that there isn’t more accountability. As we all know, knowledge is power – and truth the great antidote to impunity. That’s why the United States co-sponsored the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. And it’s why on this day, and every day, we affirm that ending impunity is both a moral imperative and a practical necessity in creating free, open, and stable societies around the world.

Impunity for those who threaten, beat, and murder journalists isn’t only unjust. It sets a dangerous precedent and creates a culture of impunity. Journalists shouldn’t be muzzled from asking tough questions. They should be empowered to seek the truth without fear of reprisal.

Abuses are happening in far too many places. We’ve seen them in horribly brutal and painful ways this year in Syria. We see them in the ISIL-controlled areas of Iraq and throughout Syria, where the regime and ISIL continue to censor the media through vicious and heinous attacks, including disappearing and kidnapping journalists to stop the vital flow of information to the outside world. The United States is committed to working with the Iraqi Government to bring the perpetrators to justice. We call on all parties to the Syrian conflict to protect journalists in Syria.

Today of all days, we demand an end to impunity for those who use violence to silence their critics. We demand answers on behalf of all the journalists and their families who still have not seen justice served. And above all, we stand in awe of the courage of those who risk their lives to tell the stories the world needs to hear.

More than forty years ago when I was in the Navy, we sometimes knew reporters who rode with us on our boat. They didn’t carry a gun. They carried a pen. Sometimes, that’s more powerful.

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