September 16, 2014
27th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council – 16 September 2014
Item 2&3 General Debate: Introduction of OHCHR report on the Human Rights Council
panel discussion on the safety of journalists.
Speaker: Kirsty Welch
Mr. President, this statement is delivered by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
in association with FORUM-ASIA and our long standing partner the Maldivian Democracy
Bold and independent journalism is vital in any democratic society. This sentiment was
overwhelmingly supported during this Council’s Panel on the Safety of Journalists, as
highlighted in OHCHR’s report. However, much of the Commonwealth and Asia remains a very
dangerous place for journalists.
To take one example, we are now on day 38 since Mr. Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla of Minivan News,
Maldives, disappeared. In these 38 days the Maldivian Police Service has failed to consistently
keep stakeholders informed of progress, the resulting lack of public satisfaction would be
much ameliorated by clear briefings on the steps taken in the investigation. Worryingly, Ahmed
disappeared 4 days after 15 journalists in Maldives received death threats. While this suspected
abduction is the first of its kind in Maldives, it follows a worsening trend of threats over the
past year, which have included attempted murder, arson and the labeling of certain journalists
and human rights defenders as un-religious.
However, harassment of journalists is not unique to Maldives. CHRI, FORUM-ASIA and MDN
therefore fully endorse the conclusion of this report, that all States must ensure that their
domestic legal framework is firmly grounded in international human rights law.
Moreover, as an acute fear prevails amongst the journalists of Maldives, CHRI, FORUM-ASIA
and MDN urge the Government to be a leader in the region and in the Commonwealth by
establishing a robust system of best practice, including by creating a rapid response
mechanism, equipped with protocols on how to respond to a range of threats against
journalists; provide training to national authorities on these responses; and ensure the
eradication of impunity for all attacks.
Moreover, we urge the Government to intensify efforts to find Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla,
including by requesting international assistance if necessary and ensuring that those
who are responsible for his abduction be brought to justice.