November 4, 2021, 01.11 PM
A file photo of World Press Freedom Day held in Jakarta on Wednesday April 3, 2017. Voiceofmillennials.com/Adi Wibowo OctaviantoA file photo of World Press Freedom Day held in Jakarta on Wednesday April 3, 2017.

KOMPAS.com - Every week a journalist gets killed somewhere in the world because of their work. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 50 journalists were murdered in 2020. People who work for the media live with this danger in many countries. And, on top of that, their killers face impunity. No one was brought to justice in 81 percent of the cases that have taken place over the past 10 years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-governmental organization (NGO).

These two organizations have now joined forces with the Dutch NGO Free Press Unlimited (FPU) to create a People’s Tribunal for murdered journalists in The Hague in the Netherlands. The first hearing took place on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (November 2). The location and the name of this new body were carefully chosen. The Hague is the seat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the tribunal was named for the Permanent People’s Tribunal, a non-judicial institution founded in the Italian city of Bologna in 1979 to investigate and bring worldwide human rights violations before a court.

Not a criminal court

In the Hague, the newly founded People’s Tribunal aims to deploy research and judicial expertise to hold those governments to an account that do not investigate crimes against journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders.

“The global problem that we want to jointly address is the impunity for murders of journalists,” RSF Executive Director Christian Mihr told DW. He added that the tribunal was not a criminal court in terms of international law but instead, its goal was to raise public awareness.

The initiative also aims to pressure those governments that top the ranks of CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free. Those states are Somalia, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Russia.

The symbolic hearing in the Hague will showcase three concrete cases from Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Syria: the murders of Lasantha Wickrematunge (2009), Miguel Ángel López Velasco (2011), and Nabil Al-Sharbaji (2015).

Most people will never have heard those three names before. But behind each name is an individual fate and a murder that has not been cleared up. The killing of Mexican journalist Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco is a case in point.

Lopez Velasco was a newspaper columnist at Notiver in the Mexican state of Veracruz. He wrote about organized crime, femicide, and corruption. A killer squad forced its way into his home early on June 20, 2011. Lopez Velasco, his wife, and his 21-year-old son died in a hail of more than 400 bullets fired from automatic machine guns. The perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

UN special representative for the safety of journalists?

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