“The critical role of journalists and media is too often undermined by intimidation and violence,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on Friday on the occasion of the United Nations International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. “Some even get killed,” Reynders noted in a press release. “The shocking death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been in the headlines for weeks, but also in Europe, journalists have lost their lives in the past year.”
According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), 61 journalists, 11 citizen reporters and 4 media assistants have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession so far this year. In the European Union (EU), three journalists have been killed in just over a year: Bulgaria’s Viktoria Marinova last month, Jan Kuciak in Slovakia in February and Maltese Daphné Caruana Galizia in October 2017.
“Furthermore, we notice anti-press rhetoric in a number of countries, coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations and intimidation of journalists,” Reynders added: according to RSF, no fewer than 167 journalists and 150 citizen reporters are currently imprisoned worldwide.
“Allowing journalists to work freely and independently is a fundamental cornerstone of a well-functioning and open democracy,” the Belgian Foreign Minister stressed. “Apart from informing, they have a supervisory role that enables them to hold those in power accountable and address wrongdoings.”
Reynders said Belgium would continue to advocate freedom of the media and of journalists, both within Europe’s institutions and in bilateral contacts, or at the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe. “Our capital, Brussels, hosts one of the largest concentrations of foreign journalists in the world,” he noted.
The International Day against Impunity for Crimes against Journalists was instituted by the United Nations in 2014 after the killing of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.