KUALA LUMPUR (June 22): There were continuing repression of journalist and media freedom worldwide, aimed at suppressing information deemed "inconvenient", and increasing restrictions placed on journalists who disseminate information through the Internet, according to United Nation's (UN) Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue.
"States continue to utilise criminal laws on defamation, national security and counterterrorism to suppress dissent and criticism, including on government policies, human rights violations and allegations of corruption. Such 'judicial harassment' generates a climate of fear and encourages self-censorship," said La Rue.
This was based on two reports made to the UN Human Rights Council, entitled The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression by La Rue, and The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions by Christof Heyns.
The reports pointed out that there was an unacceptably high number of attacks against journalists and others disseminating news, ranging from arbitrary arrests, torture and killings, to sexual violence against female journalists.
In a joint statement made by La Rue and Heyns on Thursday, they urged the world governments, the international community, and journalists and media organisations to act decisively on the protection of the right to life of journalists and media freedom.
"Attacks against journalists are attacks against democracy," they said.
According to La Rue, while the death or the plight of foreign journalists in armed conflict situations frequently attract the attention of the international community, it was the local journalists who face daily risks and violations on their rights in situations that have not reached the threshold of armed conflict, but may be characterised by violence, lawlessness and repression.
Meanwhile, Heyns underscored that impunity was "a major, if not the main, cause" of the high number of journalists killed every year.
"The countries where the highest numbers of journalists are killed are also, almost without exception, those with the highest levels of impunity. It is hard to imagine a world without journalists. Without their work, humanity would be reduced to silence, and yet a large number are killed every year with almost total impunity," said Heyns.
Heyns also said that journalists were among the persons who received the most death threats.
"It is hard to imagine a world without journalists. Without their work, humanity would be reduced to silence, and yet a large number are killed every year with almost total impunity," Heyns said, adding that while the current international legal framework provides the required normative protection of journalists, the main challenge lies in its full implementation and application of international norms in domestic law and practices.
In their reports, both human rights experts offered recommendations that deals with material, legal, and policing measures of protection, ranging from public condemnation of attacks against journalists, support for press freedom by high-level State officials and greater accountability to fight impunity.