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Panel recommends Magnitsky-style sanctions for those who target journalists

Panel recommends Magnitsky-style sanctions for those who target journalists
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OTTAWA — An international panel of experts is recommending governments use Magnitsky-style sanctions against regimes that imprison, murder or intimidate journalists. 

The panel report, drafted by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, was released Thursday in London. The panel included a host of experts including former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. 

The panel found that press freedom is becoming scarce around the world.

“In the last two years alone, over 130 journalists and media workers have been killed. India and Brazil, two of the world’s largest democracies, have some of the highest murder rates of journalists,” according to the report.

The panel said in roughly 25 per cent of these cases, government officials are the prime suspects and most of the murders have gone unpunished. They also found examples where reporters were imprisoned on spurious charges or were marginalized and labelled as “false news,” by autocratic regimes. 

Canada and the United States both have laws around Magnitsky-style sanctions. 

The first Magnitsky Act was passed by the U.S. in 2012 and designed initially to sanction Russian officials involved in the prison death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer investigating a sweeping tax fraud.

Instead of broadly targeting an entire country, the sanctions target only select members of a regime, preventing them from travelling and from accessing bank accounts in Canada or the U.S.

Canada has sanctioned people in the Russian and Venezuelan government for a variety of abuses and sanctioned 17 people in Saudi Arabia in connection to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. has also imposed sanctions on government officials in several regimes and the U.K. has passed a law and expects to start sanctioning people this year. The panel found that broader sanctions can be difficult in the current climate and targeted sanctions like this can be one of the only options. 

Attorney Amal Clooney participates in a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Seth Wenig / Associated Press

“At a time when multilateral efforts to enforce human rights through the UN Security Council and international criminal courts are in decline, targeted sanctions can be one of the few ways, or in some cases the only way, to enforce international norms,” they wrote.

They found some examples where the sanctions lead to governments releasing political opponents from arbitrary detention and hoped similar sanctions for targeting journalists could have the same impact. 

“International sanctions targeting individuals responsible for the abuses can highlight their misconduct, limit their impact and act as a deterrent to future misdeeds.”

Blatchford died this morning in a Toronto hospital, where a circle of close friends and family kept a bedside vigil

She was instinctively kind, had an alert and well-exercised radar for the plight of the underdog, the little guy, the person or group never near the head tables of life

All of Toronto knew this was her story, but for just one day, it was mine

Christie Blatchford dead at 68: Here, we take a look back at some of her memorable, most recent contributions at the Post
Read more on National Post
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