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What is Impunity?

im•pu•ni•ty \ im-'pyü-n -te \

n. without punishment, without consequences

What is impunity?

When someone acts with impunity, it means that their actions have no consequences. Threats, attacks and murders all go unpunished.

When it comes to crimes against freedom of expression globally, the problem of impunity is pervasive. In the past 10 years, more than 800 journalists and media workers have been killed for their work. In 9 out of 10 cases these crimes remain uninvestigated and unpunished.

Countless other citizens, artists, bloggers, activists and journalists have been harassed, threatened, tortured, intimidated, jailed or worse for exercising their basic human right to express themselves, almost never with serious consequences for their perpetrators.

What we are dealing with is a culture of impunity.

What do we mean by “a culture of impunity?”

A culture of impunity exists when those who deny others their right to freedom of expression can do so knowing it is unlikely they will be held accountable for their actions.

Within a culture of impunity a chilling effect on the free flow of ideas and information takes hold. This culture strips people of their ability to fully participate in societal decision-making; an essential element of a healthy democracy.

Furthermore, self-censorship becomes the norm and hard questions don't get asked, leaving powerful social actors free to pursue selfish ends with little fear of exposure or criticism from society at large.

Yet no culture of impunity is invincible, no matter how entrenched.

To learn more about what the IFEX network is doing to unseat impunity and hold states accountable for taking action against it, click here.

Expand our infographic to learn more about the cycle that sustains and feeds a culture of impunity, and how it impacts both individuals and society.

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