WPFD: Journalists’ Safety and Tackling Impunity: How can crimes against media workers be addressed?
01 May. 2017

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2017 UNESCO is hosting a four day seminar in Jakarta investigating media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies. One of the debates, “Journalists’ Safety and Tackling Impunity: How can crimes against media workers be addressed?”, is organized and moderated by International Media Support.

The number of journalists killed annually worldwide remains alarmingly high while the threat to journalists’ well-being is particularly acute in conflict zones like Syria where 14 journalists have lost their lives in 2016. Attacks against journalists have also proliferated in countries outside of conflict zones. Adding fuel to fire, far too often the perpetrators of crimes against journalists enjoy pervasive impunity as demonstrated by the annual reporting of Member States to the UNESCO Director-General. The issue of impunity feeds self-censorship on the part of both journalists and their sources alike, engendering repercussions for the broader public and their right for information.

International efforts to address grave issues pertaining to journalists’ safety like the UN Security Council Resolution 1738 in 2006 and UN General Assembly Resolution 68/163 in 2013 may have inhibited the situation from worsening, but they have also not yielded adequate results since the number of journalists’ deaths has not subsided and neither has the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for the attacks. It is clear that a more coordinated approach is necessary to lead an effective fight for safety of journalists as emphasised by the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

An international framework is necessary but insufficient to effectively address the deeply entrenched issues. It is essential that international instruments are complimented by national safety mechanisms and other appropriate measures at a national level. The protection of journalists in danger and the prevention of violence against the media should be accompanied with the prosecution of those who perpetrate crimes against journalists in country. Only when these three dimensions are addressed effectively through a coordinated approach by media stakeholders, can the safety of journalists be strengthened substantially.

Participants of this session will also be informed of the new publication “The Assault on Journalism: Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression”, a collection of articles on media safety in different contexts.

Points to Ponder

  • What global mechanisms are available and how can the role of the UN (scrutiny mechanisms) be improved? What might be the contribution of a UN special representative/advisor for the safety of journalists who is accountable to the UN Secretary-General?
  • What difference can effective national safety and protection mechanisms for journalists make in terms of ensuring coordination amongst the main stakeholders like the judiciary, the law enforcement agencies, local government, the media, and NGOs?
  • What can be done in environments where state-based actors are responsible for attacks against journalists?

The panelists are:

Honorary Deputy Minister Mr. Karunarathna Paranawithana of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media, Sri Lanka:

Kees van Baar, Dutch Human Rights Ambassador

Tanya Lokshina, Russian journalist and director of Human Rights Watch in Russia

Ilias Alami, Operations Manager, Afghanistan Safety Committee (safety mechanism)

Erol Onderoglu, journalist and Reporters Without Borders’ Representative in Turkey

Insany Shaybarwaty, Station Manager of iNewsTV, Maluka, Indonesia and the Programme Manager of Legal Aid of Press

Helle Wahlberg, moderator and Head of Communications Unit, International Media Support

The session takes place at Wednesday 3 May at 14:15 – 15:45.

More information is available on UNESCO’s homepage.