IMS joins global partners on UN media safety plan

By Lifaqane Nare

During the World Press Freedom Day commemoration held in Arusha, Tanzania, IMS announced its continued support of African stakeholders working with the United Nations Plan on the Safety of Journalists.

All issues concerning the the safety of journalists has been a core area of concern for IMS for many years and this year’s attendees discussed the UNs plan for safety needs also to include more issues relating to gender.

“How do we ensure that women journalists are able to work safely in the field and also within their own newsrooms. How do sexual innuendos begin to be seen not as harmless banter, but as a real threat to female journalists?  Those issues and also how new threats, such as trolling and cyber-bullying brought about by digital technologies,  will be addressed?” said Fausta Musokwa, IMS Programme Manager for Tanzania.

These questions will be included in IMS consultations with African partners in the months ahead, she added.

“As we reflect on UNPA, we need to be cognisant that safety of journalists and impunity  on crimes against journalists is experienced differently by women and men. Therefore, let us spotlight this and ensure that the UNPA elaborates how to operationalise actions to ensure gender equality and equity. It is not enough to just make generalised statements about gender,” said Simbiso Marimbe, IMS Zimbabwe Programme Manager.

The UNPA, initiated in 2012, is a UN-wide plan to promote the safety of journalists and tackle the widespread impunity for crimes committed against them. It was developed by UNESCO in close collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, including Member States, other UN agencies, NGOs, academia as well as media representatives and practitioners.

Ten years on, and it has become clear that governments are still willing to compromise the safety of journalists. So, the Arusha WPFD marks the start of another opportunity to further engage with relevant stakeholders in reflecting upon the difficulties encountered in the implementation of the UNPA and its work over the past decade.

“It will be an opportunity to define the African regional expectations and needs relevant to each of these pillars that will guide the interventions in the coming years within the UN, continental and national development frameworks,” said Ms Lydia Gachungi, Regional Expert for Safety of Journalists and Media Development under the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa.

Four sub-regional consultative meetings supported by UNESCO, the UN Office for Human Rights (OCHR) and the IMS   will be held with stakeholders leading to the 1st African Report on Press Freedom and Safety of Journalists in the latter part of 2022.

“There is need for all this to be tackled from both a legal perspective and policy perspective. There is need for regional solidarity and coordination, bringing together all stakeholders including parliamentarians and governments into the process,” said Ms Nompilo Somanje of the Media Institute of Southern Africa- Zimbabwe.