Global Freedom of Expression

UNESCO: Guidelines for prosecutors on cases of crimes against journalists

Key Details

  • Region
  • Themes
    Press Freedom
“The active involvement of prosecutors is often the first step in identifying and bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes and attacks against journalists. Over the past decade, a journalist has been killed on average every four days. In addition, close to 9 out of 10 cases of killings of journalists remain judicially unresolved according to UNESCO data. When a journalist is attacked, society as a whole pays the price, as freedom of expression and access to information, which are bedrocks of modern societies, erode away.
It is therefore of paramount importance to enable journalists to keep the citizenry informed and hold public institutions and official accountable. In order to foster a free and safe environment for media workers, UNESCO and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) have entered into cooperation to strengthen the role of prosecutors to fight against impunity for crimes and attacks against journalists.
In this regard, we are pleased to present these Guidelines for Prosecutors on Cases of Crimes Against Journalists. As those responsible for initiating prosecutions and, in some cases, supervising criminal investigations, independent public prosecutors have a crucial role to play in protecting journalists and in ensuring that crimes and attacks against them do not go unpunished. Along with the judiciary and security forces, they play an essential role in reinforcing the “three Ps” (Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution), to ensure journalists’ safety and thereby contribute to the building of just and peaceful societies, by reinforcing the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
As such, these guidelines aim to enhance the knowledge and capacities of prosecutors by (1) providing insight on the conduct or supervision of investigations and advisory assistance to law enforcement agencies ; (2) identifying stages and determination for proceedings in cases of crimes against journalists and preserving the integrity of evidence ; (3) emphasizing the importance of protection of journalistic sources ; (4) discussing the protection of victims, witnesses, immunities, and advantages for collaborating witnesses ; (5) examining the issue of mutual legal assistance in criminal matter and extradition ; (6) recognizing the specificities of gender-based crimes and other forms of hate crimes on journalists ; and (7) analyzing post-conflict jurisdictions and transitional justice issues.
In doing so, these guidelines fall within the global strategy for the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers, with a view to strengthening peace, democracy, human rights and development worldwide. To that effect, since 2013, UNESCO and its partners have trained over 17,000 judicial actors from Latin America, Africa and the Arab region on international and regional standards on freedom of expression and safety of journalists.
By considering both civil law and common law systems, it is our hope that those using these guidelines will gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical frameworks underpinning the right to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, as well as the additional skills to put this theory into practice.”
Xing QuAssistant
Director-General for Communication and Information a.i.United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Cheol-Kyu Hwang
President International Association of Prosecutors
The report was also published in: Português, Русский язык, Français, Español, and Bahasa Indonesia.