The Impunity Initiative: Developing legal and political remedies for violence against journalists and judicial impunity
The Initiative on Impunity and the Rule of Law is a global project of the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) at the University of Sheffield and the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism (CLJJ) at City University, London.
Our aims are to provide an independent platform to assess the effectiveness of existing legal, political and institutional safeguards against violence directed at journalists because of their professional work; and to present the case for more effective international mechanisms to counter such crimes of violence and to end impunity.
Journalists play a vital role in providing reliable information on matters of public interest and their work can expose them to special risks of physical violence and arbitrary prosecution.
As documented by UNESCO, the annual toll of targeted killings of journalist, and the effective impunity related to crimes of violence against them, have risen to historically high levels, causing serious concern among journalists, jurists, human rights organisations and governments. States are obnliged under international law to respect and protect individuals exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to ensure that those rights are upheld. Those obligations also apply in times of conflict.
Intimidation and violence directed at journalists because of their role in monitoring the exercise of state powers and matters of public interest, as well as failures to investigate and prosecute such crimes promtly and effectively, have been identified by United Nations bodies and other relevant organisations as matters that require a coordinated response by States.
The Initiative is conducting collaborative research and consultation among academic and legal experts, national government officials, Inter-Governmental Organisations, and civil society and media representatives, to advance our aims.
The findings and provisional draft proposals from PHASE ONE of the work will be considered at a gathering of experts and policy-makers at the Working Conference held at City University on 1 June 2011.
Our initial research consists of three strands, focused principally but not exclusively on the European area:-
- A Paper on International Legal Instruments, international case law and the execution of ECHR court judgements, including analysis of the current gaps in enforcement of states’ commitments, and the extent of relevant rights and obligations in law.
- A Political Aspects Study, analysing the nature of alleged climates of impunity in terms of political and judicial processes, the impact of formal and informal channels used to seek compliance with international norms and commitments, and alternative future courses of action at national and international level.
- A survey of NGOs directly involved in combating impunity in journalism.
PHASE TWO of the Initiative’s programme of research and policy development will begin during 2011. It will construct a wider international platform of academic and legal expertise, in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental bodies, to develop and seek acceptance for the enhanced political and legal instruments needed to realise the Initiative’s founding aims.
More information on the work of the Initiative will continue to appear on this site.
Contacts: William Horsley on firstname.lastname@example.org; Professor Jackie Harrison on email@example.com , Professor Lorna Woods on Lorna.firstname.lastname@example.org; Prof Howard Tumber on email@example.com
The Directors of the Impunity Initiative wish to thank the sponsors who made the research and the Working Conference possible – the Open Society Foundation ; the Norwegian PEN organisation and the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO.
Directors of the Initiative
William Horsley, International Director of CFOM, University of Sheffield, and Coordinator of the Impunity Initiative
Prof Jackie Harrison, Chairman of CFOM Centre for Freedom of the Media, University of Sheffield
Prof Howard Tumber, Director of Journalism, CLJJ, City University, London
Prof Lorna Woods, Director of Law, CLJJ, City University, London
Dr Carmen Draghici, Lecturer in Law, The City Law School, City University, London
Dr Dimitris Xenos, Researcher, The City Law School, City University, London
William Horsley, International Director of CFOM & Hon. Lecturer, Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield
Advisory Committee Members
Mark Ellis, Director, International Bar Association
Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship
Miklos Haraszti, former OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media; Adjunct Professor, Columbia Law School, USA
Lord Frank Judd, Saferworld and the UK House of Lords
Edward Mortimer, Director of the Salzburg Global Seminar and former adviser to the UN Secretary-General
Peter Noorlander, Legal Director, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Rodney Pinder, Director, International News Safety Institute