Attacks on journalists in the spotlight at Press Freedom Tribunal in The Hague




Three major press freedom groups have established a tribunal in The Hague to hold governments accountable for the deaths of journalists.

The tribunal, which has no formal legal powers, is a “form of mob justice” and will operate for six months, until May 3 next year, which is World Press Freedom Day. It was edited by the Netherlands-based Free Press Unlimited, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.

The tribunal will focus on three specific cases against the governments of Sri Lanka, Mexico and Syria, which are accused of failing to deliver justice for the respective murders of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Miguel Ángel López Velasco and Nabil Al-Sharbaji.

The aim, according to the organizers, is “to illustrate the ways in which these states fail to meet their obligations under international human rights law, as well as the impact of impunity on victims, journalistic communities and companies “.

Since 1992, more than 1,400 journalists have been killed, and in more than 80% of cases where a journalist is murdered, the killers are released, according to organizers.

“Freedom of expression is an essential human right. And yet, the frequency of serious violations committed against journalists coupled with the prevailing high levels of impunity is alarming, ”said human rights lawyer Almudena Bernabeu, chief prosecutor of the tribunal. “It is time for states to be held to account.

The launch coincides with the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, a date chosen in memory of two French journalists killed in Mali on November 2, 2013.


The dangers facing journalists were brought to light earlier this year by the murder of criminal television reporter Peter R de Vries. The growth of organized crime, far-right anti-media rhetoric, and threats from hooligans have all had an impact on press security.

And news site reported on Monday that an increasing number of media organizations in the Netherlands were purchasing special clothing and body cameras for their staff to protect them while covering risky events such as demonstrations.

“Many media organizations bought the body armor as a precaution,” Peter ter Velde, project manager at the secure media organization PersVilig, told

In the recent riots in Eindhoven, people were walking around with knives and some threw them at both police and journalists, he said.


In March, police arrested a man in the staunchly Protestant village of Urk who attempted to drive his car towards a journalist reporting on a local church’s decision to take in hundreds of worshipers despite the coronavirus.

Then, in April, police opened an investigation after an official press photographer was attacked by several men at the scene of a campaign car fire.

In May, an Associated Press photographer was assaulted while taking photos of Ajax’s league title celebrations and filed a formal complaint with Amsterdam police.

More recently, fighting between Vitesse and NEC football hooligans led local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland to prevent staff from covering risky matches and protests.

Many broadcast organizations have also stopped using their own logos on trucks and satellite dishes as a precaution.

PersVilig was established two years ago by the Dutch Journalists Union NVJ, the Editors’ Society, the police and the prosecution with the aim of improving the safety of journalists through counseling and training.

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