Measuring the safety of journalists

Successful reporting on the safety of journalists as part of tracking progress on Sustainable Development will depend upon the capacity, independence and integrity of monitoring processes in each country

Courtesy of

This was underlined by Frank La Rue, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information. at a technical workshop co-hosted by UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on 28 June in Geneva.

The workshop discussed ways to operationalise the safety-related indicator for progress on SDG 16.10, which covers “the number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists and associated media personnel” in the previous 12 months.

The indicator also includes safety of trade unionists and human rights defenders, as outlined in a presentation made by OHCHR – the body currently charged as a custodian agency for implementing indicator 16.10.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals, and which works closely with UNESCO and ILO as well as civil society and national statistics agencies. Marc Titus Cebreros, OHCHR Human Rights Officer, informed the meeting that his organisation was hard at work to ensure consistency in the definitions, methodologies and practices deployed for collecting global data for the indicator, adding, “all this, however, needs to be based on shared principles of data confidentiality as well as risk management and other safeguards.”

Other participants took turns to raise different points. Article 19’s Ricardo Gonzalez pointed out the need for a contextual application of the various aspects of the indicator, noting that, although the focus by UNESCO on journalists’ killings was important, enforced disappearances demanded special attention in some Latin American countries.

Speaking at the workshop, Jesper Højberg, Director of International Media Support (IMS), highlighted the need to share best practices of the existing safety mechanisms in place in a number of countries around the world and the need for advocacy to ensure that monitoring processes and data published on the safety of journalists was nationally owned.

Charles Guedenet of the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) shared his organisation’s outlook on measuring endangered journalists in terms of harassment, intimidation and other variables that are not necessarily captured by the present SDG indicator on journalistic safety.

Prof. Jacqueline Harrison of the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) highlighted what academics could contribute in terms of data analysis and data visualisation to the monitoring of SDG 16.10.

The expert workshop hosted by the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) follows a similar one held in September 2016, concerning SDG indicator 16.10.2 on legal and policy guarantees of access to information.The event was held on the eve of the Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Strengthening the Implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.