Calling on Canada to be a global leader on impunity and the protection of journalists

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski
Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations
One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
885 Second Avenue, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10017

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

Our colleagues at IFEX, the global free expression network, have written to you about the challenges that journalists face when working in a culture of impunity. CJFE would like to lend its support to IFEX’s letter, and call on Canada to be a global leader in the protection of journalists both at home and around the world.

2014 has been another dangerous year to be a journalist. Whether covering conflict, crime or corruption, journalists often have to put themselves at great risk in order to do their job effectively; and when they are threatened, attacked or killed, the crimes against them too often go unpunished. While journalists working in Canada are rarely faced with physical threats, there have been multiple cases of Canadian journalists being detained or otherwise obstructed in their work, especially when reporting on issues of climate change and environmental degradation. Those creating these obstacles are rarely held accountable.

Following years of campaigning on impunity, CJFE was encouraged by the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption, in 2013, of a Resolution on the Safety of journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which recognizes November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. As the inaugural day will be marked this November 2, 2014, we ask you to take this opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to addressing the issue of impunity in Canada and around the world.

We would echo IFEX’s suggestions for three actions your mission could undertake this year:

  • 1. Release a formal statement on November 2 marking the Day.
  • 2. Encourage the Canadian government to comply with the recommendations of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. This includes ensuring effective mechanisms to guarantee freedom of expression, and promoting a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work without undue interference. In particular, we would ask that journalists be allowed access to interview federal scientists and public servants, whose work is in the public interest but is currently being shielded from the Canadian media.
  • 3. Encourage the Canadian government to comply with any requests from UNESCO to submit information on the actions taken to prevent impunity for the killing of journalists for the Director-General’s biennial Report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, spearheaded by UNESCO and endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012.

We thank you for your attention in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Henheffer
CJFE Executive Director

Cc: H.E. Mr Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Canada to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs