Safety of Journalists and Combatting Impunity

UNESCO’s Director-General began condemning the killings of journalists in 1997. According to the latest biennial UNESCO’s Director-General Report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, presented in March 2012, the Director-General made 62 public condemnations against killings of journalists in 2010, with a further 65 public condemnations in 2011. Figures for the first half of 2012 portrayed a worrying trend, with the Director-General condemning a considerably higher number of killings compared to the same period in previous years.

The killing of journalists and its impunity impacts on the UN system in many ways, undermining much of the work being done to promote development, human rights, environmental sustainability and peace, amongst others.

In light of the worsening situation, a pressing need has emerged for the various UN agencies, funds and programmes to develop a single, strategic and harmonized approach in order to have greater impact on this issue. The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity is a UN wide initiative, spearheaded by UNESCO and fully endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board in April 2012, to provide an overarching framework for the UN system to work together on this issue with all the stakeholders, including national authorities and national and international organizations. To design its implementation strategy, the 2nd UN Inter-agency Meeting on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity will be held in Vienna, Austria, from 22 to 23 November 2012, convened by UNESCO and co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and the Office High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Part of the implementation strategy will be designed at international, regional and national level, particularly in a selection of 1st-phase countries, among which are Pakistan, Nepal, South Sudan and Iraq as well as a Latin American country to be selected soon.

Cooperation is also being reinforced with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue, and with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christoph Heyns. 

UNESCO is also designing its own Plan on Safety of Journalists and Combatting Impunity in consultation with Member States. This Plan will be presented to the Executive Board in Spring 2013.


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