No safety of journalists in the digital age if impunity persists

Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

 Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you Mr President,

We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur and share the concerns over the increasing vilification, targeting and criminalisation of journalists and media workers.

Journalists play a critical role in reporting on violations of fundamental rights, and the ability of journalists to work safely and without fear is a critical component of civic space.

In Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan, journalists have been attacked and arrested while reporting on protests. In Kenya and Mexico, attacks against journalists have continued unabated, with impunity. In Hungary, political interference by the government has significantly undermined media freedom. All five countries, along with Chad, are currently on CIVICUS’s Watchlist for their serious, and rapid decline in respect for civic space.

The digital age has reinforced these existing threats and created new ones to the safety of journalists.

“Fake news’’ laws are used to target journalists and media workers not in line with governments’ official positions. In Russia, journalists can face criminal penalties of up to 15 years in prison for disseminating allegedly ‘false information’ about Russian armed forces in Ukraine.

Digital surveillance is increasingly used to monitor journalists. In India, the Pegasus Spyware has been employed to target at least 300 journalists, diplomats, and activists. Biometric technologies are utilised to identify and target protesters and journalists covering protests.

Given that the digital age has brought further menaces to the safety of journalists and a chilling effect on freedom of expression, we ask the Special Rapporteur what States should do to end impunity for human rights violations against journalists and media workers?

 We thank you.