Message by Harlem Désir to Ossigeno’s Conference

Sent by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on the occasion of the celebrations organized by Ossigeno per l’Informazione to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against journalists

Dear Friends of Ossigeno per l’Informazione,

I would like to take the opportunity of your annual marking of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in the Italian Senate to commend Ossigeno’s promotion of media freedom and its important contributions to combating impunity in Italy.

Journalists across the world, and in the OSCE region, are attacked, threatened and harassed every day just for doing their job. They are attacked because they investigate on corruption and organized crime, because they publish free and critical views on political issues, because they provide information of public interest to citizens and hold those in power to account; And all too often, the perpetrators and masterminds behind these attacks are never brought to justice.

A shocking 85 percent of crimes against journalists are left unpunished. This impunity constitutes a second injustice perpetrated against these journalists.

In addition, impunity for such attacks encourages more aggression and fosters a climate of intimidation. As a result, impunity creates a chilling effect, thus curtailing free expression and free media, and depriving society as a whole of information.

By perpetuating a cycle of violence against journalists, impunity is one of the biggest challenges to ensuring the protection of journalists and media workers. We must not let journalists pay the price for our right to receive and access information.

On this day we remember the names of those who were killed in the last year in the OSCE region:

– Lyra McKee, a young journalist from the United Kingdom, who was shot while covering riots in Norther Ireland; and

– Vadim Komarov, a local journalist in Ukraine, who died in a coma after being brutally attacked in Cherkasy.

We also remember Daphne Caruana Galizia who was killed in Malta two years ago, on 16 October 2017. I was in Malta a few weeks ago to commemorate her death, and to reiterate that justice will not be served until all those involved in her brutal assassination, including the masterminds, face justice.

The second of November, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, serves as a crucial reminder of the risk faced by journalists and of states’ responsibility to protect journalists’ safety. States have politically committed themselves to protect media freedom and to fight impunity in the OSCE.

I would like to recall the OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on Safety of Journalists, which was adopted in December 2018 in Milano, and which calls on all participating States to “take effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists, by ensuring accountability as a key element in preventing future attacks, including by ensuring that law enforcement agencies carry out swift, effective and impartial investigations into acts of violence and threats against journalists, in order to bring all those responsible to justice, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies”. Without comprehensive implementation nothing will change.

We have to fight for justice, for the sake of the individual journalists attacked, but also for democracy as such. An attack against the press is an assault on our rights to be informed and to live in free and democratic societies.

We need to take real steps to implement these international commitments, and to track down and prosecute those who commit crimes against journalists.

I call on all States, all actors, civil society, law enforcement and police to join forces to defend free and independent journalism, to enable a safe working environment and ensure safety of journalists.

Together, we must protect the free press as a pillar of our own freedoms and of democracy.

I wish you a very successful gathering.

Thank you very much.

Harlem Désir

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