The work of a journalist is not only about reporting facts; it is about empowering societies so that they can make better decisions. Democracy and development depend on the unfailing and unvarnished flow of information to all citizens and journalists play a key role in that.
While the work of journalists relies on the right to truly exercise freedom of expression, their pivotal role is in enabling societies to receive and share ideas. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says clearly:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Article 19 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Journalists have a tremendous responsibility to society at large. We need them doing their job responsibly and effectively. We need them to put the spotlight on things that truly matter to strengthen democracies, combat corruption, spread knowledge and innovation. We need them to educate and speak truth to power. What we don't need is journalists risking their lives --and even getting killed-- in their quest to do their jobs the way they are supposed to.
Over 700 journalists have died in the past 10 years carrying out their work. We have seen horrendous examples that have shocked the world. On average, one journalist is killed every week. These killings are not widely reported. What is worse, the majority of these killings are "deliberately committed in connection with journalists' denunciation of crime and corruption" and nine out of ten cases go unpunished!
In response, the Human Rights Council in Geneva has adopted a landmark resolution on the safety of journalists. It condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and calls on countries to develop strategies for combating violence against journalists and measures against impunity for attacks. This resolution is not just a piece of paper with good intentions. It represents the international community's commitment to put an end to these violations.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pointed out: "by ending impunity, we deepen freedom of expression and bolster dialogue." Reporting should not be a life-threatening occupation and we --as ordinary citizens and as societies-- need to ensure that these crimes no longer go unpunished.
A year on from the brutal killing of two French radio journalists in Mali, the world marked the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November. But the entire month is about mobilizing people to #EndImpunity around the world.
Let this be a reminder to us all of the many journalists out there today putting their very own lives at risk in order to expose crimes and corruption, call for accountability, or simply deliver the truth. When something happens to them, we are all worse off. We cannot remain indifferent.