To end impunity. William Horsley, implement the rules already clarified for some time

In particular we should observ the UNESCO Guidelines for Prosecutors and the 2016 Recommendations from the Council of Europe to the national governments

OSSIGENO 28 October 2021 – William Horsley, International Director of the Centre for Freedom of the Media at University of Sheffield, sent the following message to Ossigeno per l’Informazione, to contribute to the public discussion that will take place on 3 November in Syracuse, to answer the question : how to stop impunity for crimes against journalists? See  the agenda of  the round table.

Impunity kills. And impunity encourages more killing, says UNESCO.

“Impunity begins not with the murder of a journalist but with the first threat”, says a son of murdered Maltese journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia. Impunity is a sure sign that the state has failed in its duty to protect, and that the independence of a system of justice is corrupted.

Impunity is the thief that robs the victim of life and justice, and it robs the families of the victims too. It is the vicious gangster who robs us all of the right to speak the truth, and the right to hear the truth from uncensored media, from social media…and from the institutions of the state itself.

What are the roots of impunity? International lawyer Nadim Houry investigated, in a report by the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom.

It can arise, he found, when states lack the capacity to gather evidence. But in cases where the suspects include influential  individuals, “powerful individuals seek to block the investigation and any prosecution every step of the way.”

So impunity can be stopped. Who will stop impunity? The media, the international community, public officials, whole societies must learn to see and resist impunity with all their strength.

There are clear rules and techniques to eradicate impunity, like UNESCO’s Guidelines for Prosecutors on cases of crimes against journalists.

The Council of Europe lit up the path to eradicating impunity in its 2016 Ministerial Recommendation. Key principles include establishing any link between an attack and the journalist’s work; a relentless search for masterminds as well as hitman and accomplices; exclusion of anyone implicated in the case in any way; safeguards for the integrity of court proceedings; aggravated penalties for any  obstruction of justice; and public oversight and respect for the rights of bereaved family members.

Impunity has been counted and made into graphs and tables as never before. Yet it persists and spreads. Why? Because, too often, the thief is still allowed to go about its business of robbing us all of justice and our rights


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