UNESCO's activities in support of media in electoral context

The theme chosen for the 2012 World Press Freedom Day was “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies, strongly inspired by developments that had taken place in the Arab region. During the main celebration held in Tunis, and around the world, the role of media in contributing to the success of democratic elections was highlighted.

The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board on 12 April 2012. The Plan was prepared during the 1st UN Inter-Agency Meeting on this issue, convened in September 2011 by the Director General of UNESCO at the request of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). A second UN inter-agency meeting was held in Vienna in November 2012, convened by UNESCO and co-hosted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the United Nations Development Programme.

The meeting brought together representatives from 15 UN bodies and more than 40 non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, independent experts, media groups and professional associations. The purpose of the meeting was to formulate a concrete implementation strategy by outlining more than 100 areas of work by UN bodies and civil society groups to secure the safety of journalists.
As the strategy is now being operationalized at the national level in first phase countries where it will be implemented in 2013-2014 (Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, South Sudan) and regionally in Latin America, it will serve as a key platform to galvanize efforts to ensure journalists safety. Taking into account that during electoral periods journalists can both become victims of heightened violence and become a key actor in preventing the further inflamation of social conflict (or the opposite), support to media in electoral contexts will be an aspect to naturally be considered in the process of implementing the strategy. In fact, the strategy document explicitly includes, as a foreseen action line, the integration of elements related to the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity in the reports prepared for and after electoral observation missions.

The celebration of World Press Freedom Day in 2013, under the theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in all Media served to further discussions about the implementation of the Plan of Action (the main event was held in San José, Costa Rica, and others were organized around the world).

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