A decade ago, in 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 68/163, designating November 2nd as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

It unequivocally condemned all forms of attacks and violence targeting journalists and media professionals, encompassing acts such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, intimidation, and harassment, whether in conflict or non-conflict contexts.

Sadly, over the past ten years, these threats and abuses have persisted against journalists worldwide, including within the OSCE region. Furthermore, the proliferation of violence and harassment in the digital realm.

Intimidation, threats, and physical attacks on journalists have a chilling effect on media freedom, obstructing the free exchange of information, opinions, and ideas.

This, in turn, has detrimental consequences for our societies, democratic institutions, and overall security.

It’s crucial to note that female journalists are disproportionately vulnerable to harassment, threats, and attacks, especially online gender-based violence.

Recent research by UNESCO revealed that 73 percent of surveyed women journalists experienced online threats, intimidation, and insults in connection with their work.

UNESCO and Reporters Sans Frontières have also reported a concerning rise in the detention and extrajudicial killing of women journalists in recent years.

In light of this, the new guidelines for monitoring online violence against female journalists were introduced by the Representative on Freedom of the Media.

These guidelines aim to establish a systematic monitoring and reporting mechanism to safeguard women journalists and prevent the escalation of online violence.

Also encourage participating states to support the efforts of the International Partnership for Information and Democracy and the Media Freedom Coalition in addressing specific attacks against women journalists and media professionals, encompassing sexual and gender-based discrimination, violence, and intimidation, both online and offline.

Putting an end to impunity for crimes against journalists necessitates the commitment of states to ensure accountability.

This entails conducting impartial, timely, and effective investigations into allegations of violence against journalists, prosecuting perpetrators, and ensuring that victims have access to appropriate remedies.

Regrettably, often witness instances where, instead of protecting journalists and investigating crimes against them, states criminalize journalism itself.

In 2023, the Russian Federation has seen a further decline in its position on the RSF World Press Freedom Index.

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, nearly all independent media outlets have been banned, blocked, labeled as “foreign agents,” or declared “undesirable organizations.”

For instance, in March, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges and faces a potential 20-year prison sentence.

In June, Novaya Gazeta Europe was designated an “undesirable organization,” and Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina was attacked upon her return to Chechnya to cover a political trial.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, the former editor of Novaya Gazeta, was labeled a “foreign agent” in September.

These are just a few instances of the Russian Federation’s efforts to intimidate journalists and suppress media freedom.

The repression of journalists is also deeply troubling in Belarus, as highlighted in the last Moscow Mechanism report and various reports by UN mechanisms.

Also read: International Disaster Risk Reduction Day 2023

Repressive legislation and overly broad definitions of extremism have undermined freedom of expression. Almost all independent media has been stifled, and editors and journalists have been among those subjected to arbitrary arrests.

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, over 30 journalists and media workers are currently imprisoned.

Both in Russia and Belarus, journalists have faced significant repercussions for criticizing Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Journalists and media professionals in Ukraine, including those working in occupied areas, have also encountered challenges while reporting on the ongoing conflict. Since February 2022, at least 15 media professionals have lost their lives in Ukraine.

As OSCE participating States, we have collectively committed to fostering an environment that promotes media freedom, which includes preventing violence against journalists, avoiding unwarranted restrictions on their work, and taking effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against them.

In this regard, and to better protect journalists and media professionals across the OSCE region, we firmly believe that the position of Representative on Freedom of the Media should not remain vacant.

On this International Day dedicated to ending impunity for crimes against journalists, we must all reaffirm our commitment to fulfilling these vital requirements for ensuring their safety.

Protecting journalists is integral to sustaining a robust and diverse media landscape, essential for holding those in power accountable and demanding transparency. It is a cornerstone of democracy and fundamental to our overall security.

In 2023, the primary commemoration of this significant day is scheduled to occur from November 2nd to November 3rd at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) located in Washington D.C.

UNESCO is the organizing body for this event, and it is being carried out in collaboration with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE).

This occasion will also mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the OAS Special Rapporteur ship and the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Special Procedure.

These two specialized offices play a crucial role in promoting and safeguarding freedom of expression on a global scale.