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Educating for press freedom: International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

Written by Elisa Colton, Amnesty Speaker Programme Volunteer.

The 2nd of November 2017 marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. A day designated by UNESCO, the United Nation’s organisation that focuses on culture and education.

In their 2016 report (UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity) UNESCO state that in the past decade more than 800 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public.

That’s on average one death every week. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished.

No journalist should be imprisoned or killed for seeking to tell the truth, for doing their job. Yet across the world that’s exactly what’s happening. In 2017 it feels like journalism is under attack.

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and subsequently in international law around the world (see a summary by PEN International).

In European law, freedom of expression is protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

Rights Info has a great infographic on free speech and its origins.

In the interests of full disclosure, this is an area that’s close to my heart, because when I’m not volunteering for Amnesty International I work full-time as a journalist. Most of us become journalists because we believe passionately in finding out and telling the truth, and particularly telling truth to power. Journalists do this on behalf of the people, who don’t have the platform to question power, or to hold those in positions of power to account.

The organisation Reporters Without Borders brings out a World Press Freedom Index  each year, where it ranks the countries of the world according to their media independence, transparency and support for journalism. Here’s the 2017 interactive map and list of countries (you might be surprised to see the UK is 40th on this list!)

Take action for the Istanbul 10

Turkey is now the world’s worst jailer of journalists.  Scores remain in detention. With no judicial oversight, journalists have not been tried in independent courts or received fair trials. After Turkey experienced an attempted coup in 2016 the crackdown on human rights defenders and journalists increased.

The film clip ‘Turkey: A Prison for Journalists’ published by The Committee to Protect Journalists can also be used to introduce the situation in Turkey.  

This year, Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign features the Istanbul 10. These are ten people who have dedicated their lives to defending the human rights of journalists, activists and other dissenting voices in Turkey and they are now themselves in danger. They are under investigation for terrorism-related crimes – an absurd accusation intended to choke their human rights activism. They are currently awaiting trial. The Istanbul 10 are: Idil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Ali Gharavi, Peter Steudtner, İlknur Üstün, Şeyhmus Özbekli, Nejat Taştan and Nalan Erkem

Find out how to get started on the Write for Rights Campaign and order print resources. Students can send a message of solidarity to the Istanbul 10, or demand change from those in power,in a number of ways such as taking a photo, drawing, or even a video. These can be shared, with the support of a teacher or guardian, on

Letter-writing is still a really powerful weapon, even in an age of social media. Those in prison may not get tweets but there is a chance they might receive a letter, or that their family will receive the letter. Our Power of the Pen resource can engage students in literacy as they discover the power of writing letters.

Take action for Itai Dzmara

Amnesty International works year-round to campaign for individuals, families, communities and organisations who have had their human rights violated.

One of these individuals is Itai Dzmara. Itai is a journalist and pro-democracy activist in Zimbabwe, who was arrested in March 2015. He’d been an outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe, who’s been in power for 37 years and reportedly uses violence and intimidation against opponents.

Itai was at the barbers when a group of men came in, accused him of stealing and took him away in handcuffs. No-one knows what’s happened to him.  Sheffra, Itai’s wife, reported his abduction to the police but there still hasn’t been a full investigation into his disappearance.

Use our case sheet for Itai Dzmara to support students to write to Sheffra and Itai’s children, letting them know they’re being thought about, and they’re not abandoned.

They can get creative and design a newspaper front page, with a drawing of Itai on the front and perhaps the headline ‘Where is Itai’.  We will forward any we receive in the post tothe Zimbabwean authorities. You could also choose to tweet usingthe hashtag #whereisitai @AmnestySARO @AmnestyUK.

Supporting Young Journalists

A vibrant and pluralistic media is essential to the enjoyment of other human rights by all members of society. Supporting young people to gain the skills to interpret and deliver journalism can make a difference.

Why not encourage students to imagine themselves as journalists for the day, and learn how to write a news article or mock up a television report. Encourage them to ask the basic journalistic questions of Who? What? Where? Why? The BBC School Report has 5 lesson plans with activity ideas and films clips .

Standing up and supporting a free media is essential to hold the powerful to account for their actions.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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