Colombo meeting tackles a core issue for free and independent journalism in Asia: the prevalence of impunity for past killings of journalists

UNESCO’s regional seminar held in Sri Lanka on 4 December  to mark the UN’s International Day to End Impunity for crimes against Journalists was the occasion for a highly significant  pledge by the Sri Lankan government. Prime minister Ranil Wickreesinghe made a promise to the media on behalf of his government, saying: ‘We will investigate and  bring to justice those that have ended the lives of our journalists, and send a very clear message that this government will protect the journalists by all measures at hand’.

CFOM international director William Horsley commented: This is a really important moment for the struggle to end impunity for killers of journalists in Asia”.

The meeting in Colombo was the first UNESCO-led meeting on the theme of the fight against impunity to be held in Asia, where 107 journalists were killed for their work between 2006 and 2016, with only 7 percent of those cases being resolved in court.  Among the speakers at the regional gathering was the widow of Lasantha Wickrematunga, who was murdered in 2009 after predicting his own death in a newspaper editorial that was published posthumously.

The discussions covered the question of setting up national protection mechanisms in several Sian countries to protect journalists and prosecute those responsible for their killings.

In November 2014 CFOM co-organised with UNESCO the first high-level regional seminar and inter-regional dialogue marking the Day against Impunity. That event was held inside the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. CFOM also took part in subsequent follow-up gatherings with senior human rights judges and UN officials at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights  in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 2015; as well as the Africa-focussed conference in 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania, the site of the African Court on  Human and Peoples Rights.

For more details see UNESCO’s website.

Image © UNESCO