Governments worldwide flout their obligation to protect journalists from harm

London, 30 October 2014


Many governments around the world are failing in their obligation to protect journalists from harm, PEN International said today, ahead of the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists which falls on 2 November.

PEN has recorded 35 killings of journalists and writers since 2 November last year.  The worldwide association of writers, which monitors freedom of expression violations on its annual Case List, is asking PEN members to remember their fallen colleagues over 21 days in November.

‘There is no justification for rampant impunity,’ said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

‘Impunity imbeds sustained tragedy and loss in a society. Impunity instils an atmosphere of fear and ensures that truth is suppressed.’

2 November is also the Day of the Dead in many Latin American countries where impunity for attacks on journalists is a major concern;  23 November is  the International Day to End Impunity, organised by IFEX, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, of which PEN International is a founding member.

“In recent years PEN has been campaigning incessantly for an end to impunity for murders and other violent attacks, particularly in Mexico and Honduras,” said Botsford Fraser.

‘Now that the international community has recognized the importance of addressing the problem, through the creation of a day, as well as the UNESCO Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists, we hope that governments in affected countries will shoulder their responsibilities to investigate journalists’ murders and prosecute their killers in line with their obligations to do so.’

This year, PEN is calling on its members to take action in two cases:

  • Prageeth Ekanaliyagoda, a political analyst, journalist and visual designer for the Lanka eNews who disappeared over four years ago on 24 January 2010, two days before a general election . He had previously been kidnapped by unidentified men and held blindfold overnigh. His family has received no information as to his fate but fear that government forces may have abducted him.
  • Juan Carlos Argeñal, owner of Christian station Vida Televisión and correspondent in Danlí for opposition station Globo TV, who was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in his home in Danlí, Paraíso Department, on 7 December 2013. In the months before his murder, he had received threats, including death threats, in connection with his reporting on corruption in a local hospital and in local government. Almost 11 months on, Argeñal’s murder remains unsolved and, according to his brother, Mario Argeñal – who has been active in demanding justice for the killing and who has himself been threatened – there has been almost no progress in the investigation.

At its recent 80th international Congress in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, PEN’s Assembly of Delegates passed resolutions condemning freedom of expression violations in a range of countries, including reference to violence against journalists and impunity in Honduras, Mexico, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.

For more information/press/interviews contact Sahar Halaimzai: +44 (0) 207 405 0338

PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International – PEN’s Secretariat – connects an international community of writers. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on all five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. PEN International is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088.