[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Wednesday spoke out against the attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo [corporate website], expressing his shock and appall at at the actions of the terrorists who carried it out. The attack was perpetrated by masked gunmen [NYT report] who entered the office of the magazine late Wednesday morning and killed 12 people, including top journalists and two police officers. The Secretary-General delivered remarks during a New Year visit to the UN Correspondents Association, stating, “This is an attack against freedom of expression and freedom of the press—the two pillars of democracy.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] also condemned [UN News Centre report] the attack, stressing the need to arrest those responsible without placing blame on other groups. The director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) [official website] also made a statement [UNESCO report], saying that UNESCO is determined to protect the free and independent press, and that “the international community cannot let extremists sow terror and prevent the free flow of opinions and ideas.”
Journalism is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, with more than 1,000 journalists killed since 1992 and more than 200 journalists imprisoned [CPJ factsheets]. In September a group of UN human rights experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, urged stronger protection for journalists [JURIST report] covering conflicts. In August rights groups declared the execution of US journalist James Foley by Islamic State (IS) extremists a war crime [JURIST report]. In July Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported mounting evidence [JURIST report] of abductions and violence against activists, protesters and journalists in eastern Ukraine. Also in July a Myanmar court sentenced [JURIST report] four journalists and the chief executive of the Unity Journal to 10-year prison sentences and hard labor for publishing a story alleging the Myanmar military had seized land in Magwe for the purpose of producing chemical weapons. In June an Egyptian court sentenced [JURIST report] three Al Jazeera journalists to prison for reporting false news and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood; three other journalists were sentenced in absentia. In May Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on [JURIST report] Myanmar to pass more protective media laws and end arbitrary arrests of journalists.