Legal experts call for sanctions on human rights abuses vs journalists

Vernise Tantuco

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Legal experts call for sanctions on human rights abuses vs journalists
The High-Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom recommends that governments impose sanctions like the 'Magnitsky laws' on rights violations against the media

MANILA, Philippines – Amid attacks against journalists across the world, a legal panel on media freedom recommended in a report drafted by Amal Clooney that governments and multinational institutions impose sanctions on human rights violations against journalists.

The High-Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom published their report on Thursday, February 13, and discussed their recommendations at Chatham House in London. Clooney is the Deputy Chair of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom and the British Foreign Office’s special envoy on media freedom. 

The report recommended that laws on sanctions for violations of international human rights should be drafted to encompass the abuse of media freedom. This was recommended not only to governments, but also to multilateral organizations like the EU.

These sanctions should be imposed on anyone – both public officials and non-state actors like companies – and will be imposed on rights violations like the unjust imprisonment of journalists and shutdowns of the internet.

The imposition of these sanctions is patterned after the “Magnitsky laws,” which exist in the US, UK, and Canada. These laws give governments the power to impose visa and travel restrictions and financial sanctions on human rights violators anywhere in the world.

“Such a sanction is more effective if it is imposed by multiple countries rather than simply one, but a few countries exercise a lot of power and magnetic appeal with respect to these types of sanctions, and so their effectiveness can be outsized even if they come from just one country,” said Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute Faculty Co-Director Sarah Cleveland at the panel.

The report on sanctions comes weeks after the US Senate approved a resolution on January 9 that invoked the Magnitsky Act against Philippine officials linked to the detention of Senator Leila de Lima and the Duterte administration’s alleged extrajudicial killings.

If President Donald Trump decides to impose sanctions, the Philippine officials involved will suffer US travel restrictions and will have their US accounts and assets frozen.

Aside from Cleveland and Clooney, speakers at the panel also included Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights the Honorable Irwin Cotler, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, former UK Supreme Court President Lord David Neuberger, and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. –

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Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.