NUJ joins calls for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists
Union launches new resources as part of safety campaign condemning abuse targeted at journalists.
This year, at least 59 journalists around the world have paid with their lives simply for doing their jobs. In June, NUJ member Dom Phillips was murdered in Brazil while conducting research for his new book on how to save the Amazon. His killing, alongside activist Bruno Pereira highlighted the grave dangers facing journalists who attempt to expose wrongdoing or harm.
A month earlier, Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli forces despite wearing a clearly marked press vest. Her murder was one of several targeted attacks by Israel against Palestinian journalists. Shielded by impunity, systematic targeting by Israel has been condemned by the NUJ and the union has since backed a submission to the International Criminal Court.
Today, on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the NUJ is joining the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and colleagues globally, to call for an end to violence against journalists and for those responsible to be held to account.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“The NUJ stands in solidarity with journalists worldwide seeking an end to impunity for crimes committed against journalists. At home and abroad, journalists continue to face danger and attacks despite committing no crime. We know abuse and harassment should never be part of the job, but what needs to happen is a change of culture where it is totally unacceptable for journalists to be threatened and abused just for doing their job.
“Today, the NUJ is launching a new safety toolkit offering practical tips to journalists to help protect them wherever they work. Information on cyber threats, mental health support and physical safety all feature in the much-needed resource.
“Public figures who attack the press, must be held to account. Their action is not only a threat to press freedom but has a real impact on the journalists targeted. We’re also launching a video, where our members tell their stories of how they have experienced death threats, attacks and abuse and how it has affected their work and lives.
“We continue to support members and work with sister unions globally to highlight the damaging impact crimes against journalists has on individuals, their families and the press.”
On 2 November, from 5-6pm, NUJ members are invited to a webinar to watch the union’s launch of a short safety video featuring testimony from members who have faced abuse and harassment as part of their jobs.
Speakers include Jeremy Dear, IFJ deputy general secretary, Monika Plaha, BBC News journalist and Jim Boumelha, IFJ Treasurer and Chair of NUJ Policy Committee. The event will be chaired by Grahame Morris MP, chair of the NUJ's Parliamentary Group. Tickets are available, book a free place.
Journalists’ safety toolkit
As part of the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists’ action plan, the NUJ and Society of Editors have produced a mobile safety toolkit to help journalists do their job safely. It provides information to help journalists protect themselves and their sources and technological ways to secure communications. It covers physical safety, information security, mental health care, health and safety at work and gives advice on how to take action against abuse on social media platforms.
The toolkit can be accessed here: https://www.journalists-safety.tools/
When accessing the webpage on mobile devices, you can add it to your Home page for easy access by clicking the Share icon, then scrolling down and tapping Add to Home Screen.
Global threats to journalists and journalism
In 2021, the IFJ reported 47 killings of journalists around the world including in Turkey, India, Mexico, Yemen and Iran. Its killed list report showed the lives of journalists in danger often with perpetrators protected by a culture of impunity, thus able to avoid justice systems and deny the families of victims truths they deserve.
This year, several journalists have been killed in Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion in February. NUJ members have stood in solidarity, contributing donations to an IFJ appeal directly supporting journalists suffering the impact of war. Journalists continue to require support and donations can be made to the IFJ/EFJ appeal.
In Russia, president Putin’s restrictions on media reporting and efforts by authorities to force the closure of the Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union was condemned by the NUJ. Earlier this year, police officers detained at least 18 journalists at anti-war protests in Russia, with some fined despite being clearly identifiable as journalists.
In September, the NUJ called on British and Irish governments to launch on independent investigation into the murder of journalist Martin O’Hagan. The union’s campaign spanning two decades shines a light on the failure of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to properly investigate O’Hagan’s killing by the Ulster Volunteer Force in 2001.
Women in Afghanistan continue to face harassment and intimidation under Taliban rule, with restrictions on their attire, conduct and roles they can carry out within journalism. NUJ members can still donate to the IFJ’s Safety Fund supporting journalists in Afghanistan. Jeremy Dear, IFJ deputy general secretary, has shared how funds have been used, including by providing emergency grants to help Afghan journalists by food and medicines.
The NUJ is asking members to sign an open letter calling for the release of four journalists on death row, wrongly sentenced following their reporting on human rights violations by Houthi authorities. In June, journalist Saber al-Haidari was killed by an explosive device placed under his vehicle. The deliberate attack is one of many facing journalists working in the country often hostile to their work.
IFJ campaign – International convention on the safety and independence of journalists
The IFJ have drafted an international convention that would oblige the UN to establish mechanisms to hold governments to account for journalists' safety and efforts to combat impunity.
Watch our webinar held earlier this year and chaired by Jeremy Dear, with speakers Lina Kushch from the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine; Sami Al- Ansi a Yemeni journalist, Jennifer Robinson - a lawyer from Doughty Street Chambers leading work on a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the targeting of journalists in Palestine.