The Rights of Journalists

the 21st of June, the Special
Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, and the Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns,
presented reports to the Human Rights Council focused upon protecting
the rights of journalists.  Both
emphasised the unacceptable worldwide level of violence against both professional
and unprofessional journalists. They asserted that it was local journalists who
were most vulnerable.

According to the reports only 10 percent of murders
committed against journalists results in any form of conviction.  Mr Heyns highlighted a recent instance in
Mexico where a non professional journalist was decapitated for her work. In a
period of ever growing access to news and information, and of public ability to
investigate and publish, it was made extremely clear that members of the public
engaging in these activities are extremely vulnerable and need to be protected.
It was recommended that attacks on journalists be dealt with at the highest
level in all cases, this would constitute high profile governmental involvement
in all cases of violence and deter attackers.

state delegations took exception to the report on freedom of opinion and expression. Belarus and China
were particularly emphatic in their criticism. Belarus pointed out that the
report lacked balance. They and China took the opportunity to emphasise that
western countries were far from perfect in their records on freedom of
expression. They used the arrest of Julian Assangeas an example. Julian Assange
is the founder of the notorious whistle blowing website Wikileaks. It was
highlighted that his arrest on charges of rape took place almost immediately
following the publication of US government documents not intended for public

La Rue had also recommended the decriminalisation of defamation. This was
heavily criticised. While countries were in favour of the right to freedom of
expression and of the rights of journalists, there was a prevalent feeling that
this should not be done at the total expense of the individual’s right to
privacy and reputation.

this, these UN experts illustrate that the protection of the media from
reprisal must be at the fore if this right is to be protected.