[New video] ASIL Hague Closing Panel on confronting impunity and safeguarding journalists  

Published 29 May 2024

In a new video, you can now watch the Hague Closing Plenary of the 2024 annual meeting of the American Society of International Law (ASIL). The plenary, convened by Asser Institute researcher Gabriele Chlevickaite, reviewed efforts to fight impunity for journalist attacks, including cyber threats, intimidation, and prosecution challenges. Watch it now 

Journalists and media workers worldwide are confronting escalating threats, intimidation, and violence. They do so in the throes of armed conflict, within increasingly authoritarian contexts, and in seemingly peaceful states. The cases of the late Jamal Khashoggi, Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, Ján Kuciak, Daphne Caruana Galizia, among the many others serve as examples 

In December 2023, UNESCO sounded an alarm over the deaths of journalists who work in conflict zones, with killings almost doubling over the past three years. This trend has been exacerbated by the record toll of journalists killed in the Israel-Gaza war since 7 October 2023.  

‘Zones of silence’ 
The consequence of intensified conflicts and related destruction of lives and media infrastructure, creates, in the words of UNESCO, ‘zones of silence’, which have severe consequences for access to information. The increase in journalists killed in situations of declared armed conflict overshadows the likewise serious situation in a number of non-conflict contexts, or contexts where an armed conflict has not been officially declared.  

The impunity for killings of journalists persists at a rate above 85% over the last fifteen years. Many explanations for this have been offered: capacity issues, such as the lack of technical competence and/or staff able to conduct complex investigations involving both direct perpetrators and those potentially orchestrating the killings remotely. There are also issues of willingness: fear, coercion, and wilful ignorance of going after those silencing media workers worldwide. 

International investigative task force  
In the past two years, some organisations are working towards creating an international investigative task force for crimes against journalists. Upon recommendation of, among others, UN Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, taken forward by the Media Freedom Coalition’s High-Level Panel of Legal Experts, efforts towards creating an international body to support and/or conduct investigations into, in particular, murders of journalists, has been ongoing.  

ASIL’s 2024 Hague Closing Plenary was dedicated to taking stock of the work aimed at reducing impunity for crimes against journalists, and addressed the risks and harms media workers experience from several fronts: cyber threats, direct physical threats and intimidation, the challenges in investigating and finding a forum for prosecuting such crimes, and related issues.  

For a full discussion, watch the recording 


  • Catherine Amirfar, Co-chair of the International Dispute Resolution and Public International Law Groups of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and Deputy Chair of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom. 
  • Evelien Wijkstra, Director of policy and advocacy of the Amsterdam-based Free Press Unlimited, promoting press freedom and a safe and viable work environment for journalists. 
  • Can Yeginsu is a practising English barrister and the Deputy Chair of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom. 

With introductory remarks by The Hague Deputy Mayor Marielle Vavier. 


  • Gabriele Chlevickaite, Researcher in international criminal law at the Asser Institute, who coordinates international criminal law-related projects and conducts research into fact-finding in international criminal investigations and prosecutions. Gabriele is part of the research strand ‘In the public interest: accountability of the state and the prosecution of crimes, which examines the accountability of states and the prosecution of individuals for international and transnational crimes in the public interest. It also focuses on the role of journalists, digital media, human rights NGOs, and academics in protecting and promoting public interest standards. 




Read more 
In 2022 and 2023, the Asser Institute hosted the Forum of Legal Actors for Freedom of Expression, which discussed the state of freedom of expression and the protection of journalists. The global network, aims to support and defend the right to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. Jointly launched in 2020 by the Asser Institute, UNESCO, Free Press Unlimited, and sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Forum of Legal Actors is a global platform to exchange views on best practices and the interpretation of legal provisions. The Forum, which consists of high-level judges, public prosecutors, lawyers, academics and legal representatives of civil society, will disseminate international norms and standards in comparative law. Read more. 

Dr Gabrielė Chlevickaitė