The vicious attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were brutally murdered and 11 people were left wounded, has reminded the world that freedom of expression and freedom of information can never be taken for granted, but that they are principles we need to continuously and tirelessly defend from those who wish to silence the voices of others.
According to the UNESCO report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity (2012), in the period 2006-2011, 372 journalists and media workers worldwide have been killed while performing their professional duties. In the report it is stated that in fact, ‘most of the victims were not international war correspondents but local journalists covering local stories’ (p. 4).
These acts of violence are often not committed in extraordinary circumstances, but happen in our daily lives. International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) states that 9 out of 10 perpetrators of these crimes are never prosecuted. The UNESCO report reads: ‘impunity which may be understood as the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice, perpetuates the cycle of violence against journalists and must be addressed’ (p. 29).
The right to information and the right of expression must be guaranteed constitutionally and be implemented in national law. Between 2006-2011, 43 journalists were killed in 13 African countries, making the work of AFIC and its members and partners even more pivotal. It is of grave importance that we urgently recommend to African governments that these rights be ratified and implemented as soon as possible. Of equal gravity is the issue of informing people of the existence of these rights, so that they can demand and exercise the freedoms they deserve. Only in this way, we can put an end to the cycle of violence against journalists and the dangers of impunity.
Gideon Sinke, Intern