Opening speech by colleague Yara Badr on the first day of the People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists in The Hague

Good Morning. 

Distinguished members of the Tribunal,

Experts, witnesses and all fellow journalists,

“What brings us here today to this hearing in the case of Syria is the continuous effort to reject the continuation of the policy of impunity for the crimes committed against journalists in Syria and around the world.”

A few days ago, the world celebrated the World Press Freedom Day, and the pages of human rights organizations’ statements, whose figures noted the decline in press freedom globally, did not fold until the whole world was watching the photos of the assassination of journalist Sherine Abu Aqleh in the Jenin camp. 

Shreen targeted while she was wearing the distinctive Press jacket and hat, and despite the failure of the United Nations to recognize them as an official international emblem. However, this distinction makes it impossible to question that Shereen was a journalist and not involved in hostilities action, as it is required by the 1948 Geneva Conventions, when she was directly targeted in the head.

While the world watched the assassination of our colleague Shireen, the record is continuing of crimes against journalists in Syria, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and many other countries.

In its report entitled The Black Hole, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression documented 1,609 violations against male and female media workers, including seventy violations against Syrian and foreign female media workers, and 702 of them were killing action, during the ten years from March 2011 until the end of 2020, no trials were conducted for any of these crimes, with the exception of three crimes:

The murder of French journalist Gilles Jacquier, FRANCE 2 reporter, who was killed in the Syrian city of Homs in January 2012. The French judiciary opened an official investigation into his death on charges of premeditated murder. He was the first foreign journalist to be killed in Syria, but the investigation did not lead to any results. To date, ten years after the crime that the Syrian government was accused of.

– As well as the murder of photojournalist Remi Ochlik, who was also killed in Homs, in the targeting of Baba Amr Media Center by Syrian government forces, and the investigation is still ongoing before the French legal system.

– And the case of his journalist colleague Marie Colvin, who was ruled by the US court that the Syrian government was responsible for targeting and deliberately killing her in the bombing of the Bab Amr Media Center in February 2012, in 2019, three years after the start of the civil right case brought by her family.

The international community’s disregard for the crimes committed every day against journalists, the failure of international UN bodies to provide effective protection mechanisms, and effective special measures that go beyond the level of disapproval and theoretical condemnation down to the level of action,, is the reason that one in ten murders against workers In the media field, that reach to the courts, and even these bodies consider these crimes as crimes committed against civilians and not against journalists who chose to put their lives at risk in order to convey the truth to the world.

Today, these sessions come to provide practical examples of the possibility of ‘implementing a form of justice’ that stops this continuous flow of crimes against journalists.

Nabil Al-Sharbaji, you will get to know him closely during these two days. A young Syrian man, he believed in civil work and journalistic work. He paid with his life for these principles. You will learn about a series of systematic violations that Nabil was the victim of, starting with arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, unfair trials, and even the execution of a death sentence issued by an exceptional court, which is unfair.

Accountability for crimes committed against media professionals is the only way to guarantee the sovereignty of the Fourth Authority and its ability to operate freely. 

Today, we must emphasize more than ever the need not to waive the demand for:

–  positive discrimination for journalist, 

Today, we should not accept narratives that say that no story deserves death from order it. 

On a daily basis, journalist choose to do their job in conveying the truth, facing the dangers of death, injury, arrest and torture, in Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Mexico and every place where the law does not rule.

We reject these narratives, and we refuse to give in to Nietzsche’s view that the truth is told by those who wish to leave. We tell the truth because we want to change it, because we want to live.

Let me finally borrow from Abby Mann words, said by the retired American judge Dan Haywood’ Character:

let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: Justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.