June 20th, 2012
United Nations Human Rights Council to focus on protecting rights of journalists
By Melissa Nally
The United Nations Human Rights Council met yesterday, June 19, in its 20th Session to discuss reports of two Special Rapporteurs that focus on protecting the rights of journalists. Both reports urge states to utilize international standards to combat growing problems by applying international human rights law on a domestic level and strictly enforcing it. The joint presentation of these reports indicates the concern over the widespread violations of the rights of journalists, and the need to alert the international community.
Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, prepared a report on the mechanisms in place to provide greater protection for journalists. Concerned with the growing number of journalists killed or intimidated into self-censorship, the report cites the enforcement of an established international framework and how it translates to domestic laws and practices as the most immediate problem. The report aims to bring journalists’ deaths from a local issue to an international one by proposing measures that give at-risk journalists additional tools and steps to ensure greater accountability.
The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, will present on protecting journalists and ensuring media freedom. La Rue’s report focuses on protecting journalists outside of armed conflict, which is when the majority of human rights violations against journalists occur. The report will explore the obstacles journalists overcome in reporting on controversial topics or events, the use of criminal laws to suppress coverage, and the problem of impunity. The report cites not a lack of an established international framework as the major problem, but the lack of effective measures to enforce it. It comes on the heels of a recent conference organized by the Middle East Regional offices of the UN Human Rights Office and the International Labor Organization to forge national frameworks for cooperation to remove legal restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression.
Melissa Nally is a 2012 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information Intern. She recently completed her first year at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Connect with Melissa email@example.com.