Two reports were presented Thursday to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] to urge for greater protection for the right to life of journalists [press release] and media freedom. Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue [official website; report, PDF] and Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns [official website; report, PDF] are asking the international community and governments to recognize the high number of attacks on journalists and other news disseminating individuals. The reports address these attacks, which include arbitrary arrests, torture, killings, and sexual violence, and state that attacks against journalists and media freedom are attacks against democracy. In his report Heyns noted, "While the current international legal framework provides the required normative protection of journalists, the main challenge lies in its full implementation and application of international norms and domestic law and practices." Both reports include recommendations including public condemnation of right to life violations against journalists, support for press freedom by high-level State officials and greater accountability to fight impunity.
Protection of human rights, including media and journalists, remains a central concern for the UN. On Tuesday, La Rue presented a report [JURIST report] concluding that people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are severely limited in free expression, both by the official governing bodies, and de facto authorities like Hamas. In March, Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya [official website] outlined the risks and challenges faced by human rights journalists and media workers in a report [JURIST report] that called for additional protection for these individuals. Last October, Sekaggya released a report [JURIST report] indicating that human rights defenders were still being harassed, attacked and killed more than a decade after the international declaration adopted for their protection. Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] remains imprisoned in China despite international calls for his release. In July 2011, a coalition of human rights organizations issued a joint statement urging the Russian government to investigate the murder [JURIST report] of rights activist Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. In June 2011, Zimbabwean human rights activist Farai Maguwu was arrested [JURIST report] for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's controversial diamond mining practices to the international diamond control body the Kimberly Process [advocacy website], and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] last month urged the body to address the issue [JURIST report].