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Home Dutch News Tribunal for murdered journalists opens in The Hague

Tribunal for murdered journalists opens in The Hague

Published on November 02, 2021

A “people’s tribunal” to achieve justice for murdered journalists opened in The Hague on Tuesday to defend media freedoms in an age of increasing authoritarianism and populism.

Set up by a coalition of press freedom organisations, the hearings lasting six months will focus on the unsolved cases of three journalists murdered in Mexico, Sri Lanka and Syria.

While it has no legal powers to convict anyone, the tribunal aims to raise awareness, pressure governments and gather evidence through what it calls its form of “grassroots justice”

Hatice Cengiz, who was set to marry dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi before he was killed in 2018 inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, said she was testifying at the tribunal so the world does not forget her murdered fiancee.

“In the past people were targeting journalists, but now the government and the leaders of governments are targeting journalists. So it’s a very, very important point,” Cengiz said.

“I am attending this people’s tribunal on the murder of journalists because to remind the world again what happened to Jamal and why we couldn’t achieve any justice until now.”

Nobel Peace laureate Maria Ressa of the Philippines, and the son of murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia are among the others who will testify at the tribunal in a 17th century former church in The Hague.

The tribunal was organised by Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Reporters Without Borders and is starting on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

It will examine the 2009 assassination of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge during Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist conflict, the 2011 murder of Mexican journalist Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco along with his wife and son, and Nabil Al-Sharbaji, who died in a Syrian detention centre in 2015.

Worldwide more than 1,400 journalists have been killed since 1992 and in eight out of 10 cases the killers have gone free, the CPJ said.

Media freedoms had been further undermined in recent years by populist leaders, including former US President Donald Trump, said Helena Kennedy, a high-profile British rights lawyer who is advising the tribunal.

“Journalism is about truth telling. It’s what populist and authoritarian governments are most afraid of,” she said via video link.

The tribunal aimed to show that it was possible to find new evidence for the murders of journalists, even when states are unable or unwilling, said FPU director Leon Willems.

“When we kill a journalist, when we let that happen, we kill stories. We kill stories that are important, that uncover wrongdoing,” he said.