At the request of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, celebrated on 2 November, prosecutors from eight countries have given ten specific undertakings designed to ensure that violence against media personnel does not go unpunished. And they urge fellow prosecutors to follow suit.
Issued on the ninth anniversary of the murders of Radio France Internationale reporters Ghislaine Dupont et Claude Verlon in Mali on 2 November 2013, this unprecedented “2 November Appeal Against Impunity for Crimes Targetting Journalists” aims to raise awareness throughout the world about the need for both national and international justice systems to take action on this issue.
By signing the ten undertakings and calling on colleagues to join them, the eight prosecutors – who include the prosecutor in charge of the Jan Kuciak murder investigation in Slovakia, Brazil’s former prosecutor general and Gambia’s current solicitor general – are proclaiming their determination to preserve the independence and impartiality of their investigations, to protect journalists and to cooperate with their international counterparts.
Each of the ten undertakings details the actions to be taken. The prosecutors undertake to resist pressure of all kinds. They undertake to conduct “impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations.” They undertake to systematically evaluate the relationship between the crime and the victim’s journalistic activities. And they undertake to cooperate fully with international counterparts and counterparts in other countries in the investigation of crimes against journalists with a transnational dimension.
“Regardless of the country or legal system, prosecutors have a central role to play in bringing the perpetrators of crimes of violence against journalists to justice. Resolute action by prosecutors is an essential condition for establishing a free and safe environment for journalists. With this unprecedented appeal, a major step has been taken. We salute its signatories for their commitment.
RSF took this international appeal initiative in order to let prosecutors in difficult situations know they are not alone, and to let victims know that they can obtain justice. According to the data gathered by RSF, more than 1,000 journalists and media workers have been murdered worldwide since 2010, while another 118 have disappeared since 2016. UNESCO says nearly 90% of crimes of violence against journalists go unpunished.
“The actions of prosecutors are often obstructed in these sensitive cases involving major public interest issues. We often discover, as in Mexico, for example, that the link between the murder and the victim’s journalistic activity has never been properly investigated. Prosecutors must be able to investigate without endangering their own lives, those of their families or their careers.
The 2 November Appeal’s first eight signatories work in Brazil, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Mexico, Serbia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. Other prosecutors are invited to add their names to the appeal.
The first eight prosecutors:
Laura Borbolla is a Mexico City prosecutor who worked for Mexico’s Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) from 2012 to 2015.
Raquel Dodge was Brazil’s prosecutor general from September 2017 to September 2019, winning praise for her efforts to combat corruption and organised crime and to defend human rights. Brazil is ranked 110th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index
Matus Harkabus is a prosecutor with Slovakia’s special prosecutor’s office, currently working in the organised crime, terrorism and extremist crimes unit. He is in charge of the investigation into journalist Jan Kuciak’s murder in 2018.
Pascal Kake is currently a court prosecutor in Mahagi, a city in Ituri province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Eight journalists have been murdered in the DRC in the past ten years.
Lord Ken Macdonald, KC, was director of public prosecutions of England and Wales (and head of the Crown Prosecution Service) from 2003 to 2008. Since 2010, he has been a life peer in the House of Lords, where he now sits as a crossbencher (independent). He was warden of Wadham College, Oxford until 2021.
Predrag Milovanovic is currently senior assistant to the prosecutor general at the public prosecutor’s office of Serbia. He was the prosecutor who obtained the conviction of the instigator of the 2018 arson attack on journalist Milan Jovanovic’s home at the original trial in 2021.
Charden Bédié Ngoto is state prosecutor in Dolisie, the third largest city in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville).
Hussein Thomasi has been Gambia’s solicitor general since December 2020. As a special adviser at the ministry of justice in 2017, he played an important role in the initiation of prosecutions for the murder of RSF and AFP correspondent Deyda Hydara in 2004, when Yahya Jammeh was president. Respect of press freedom has increased considerably since Jammeh’s removal in 2016.