An independent global panel of legal experts on media freedom sought the creation of an International Investigative Task Force to effectively probe abuses against journalists.
The High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom – an independent body convened in 2019 at the request of the United Kingdom and Canada – released on Wednesday, November 25 (Thursday, November 26, Manila time), its 4th advisory report directed to members of the 37-strong Media Freedom Coalition of states.
The report, Advice on Promoting More Effective Investigations into Abuses against Journalists, was authored by panel member Nadim Houry, executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative.
The report cited two factors for the ongoing failure to conduct investigations, which then embolden attackers: the state's lack of capacity due to ineffective institutions and corruption, and the lack of political will to pursue accountability.
“Rampant impunity has created a chilling effect for media freedom. Despite repeated promises at the international level to tackle impunity, there are still too few mechanisms actually investigating the attacks…. It is time for a ‘Coalition of the Committed’ to lead the way in setting an international investigative task force that can bring perpetrators to justice,” Houry said.
“For too long, impunity for such crimes has been perceived as insurmountable and the international community has only offered empty expressions of condemnation. With the creation of the International Investigative Task Force, states will be held accountable to deliver on their international obligations to protect human rights and uphold the Rule of Law,” said panel member Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who was part of the small, informal investigative team into the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
At least 37 member-states of the Media Freedom Coalition, including the UK and Canada, have signed the Global Pledge on Media Freedom, which "commits like-minded countries to working together on identifying and acting on violations and abuses against members of the press."
The report recommended the following strategies to strengthen investigations into attacks against journalists:
1. Creating an international Investigative Task Force that can quickly deploy international experts to support national as well as United Nations investigators
If the panel would have it their way, they would want a new permanent United Nations investigative body. However, they recognized the lack of political support for that.
Instead, they recommended that an organization “with global reach, independence, and the right convening power” – such as the International Bar Association, which also serves as the panel's acting secretariat – could host the task force.
Funding would come from member-states of the Media Freedom Coalition.
While this task force would not have a UN mandate, the report said it would present some key strengths:
2. Supporting non-governmental organizations that work to collect evidence
The report urged states to strengthen NGOs’ capacity to transfer evidence to UN mechanisms and courts with jurisdiction.
3. Strengthening the UN’s capacity to hold the worst violators of journalists’ rights politically accountable by:
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com