In the past 10 years, more than 800 journalists and media workers have been killed – the majority of them are not war correspondents. Attacks on media professionals are often perpetrated in non-conflict situations by organized crime groups, militia, security personnel, and even local police, making local journalists among the most vulnerable. These attacks include murder, abductions, harassment, intimidation, and the illegal arrest and detention.
Most abuses against media professionals remain uninvestigated and unpunished. This impunity perpetuates the cycle of violence against journalists, media workers and citizen journalists. The resulting self-censorship deprives society of information and further impacts press freedom.
The killing of journalists and its impunity directly impacts the United Nations’ human rights based efforts to promote peace, security, and sustainable development
Since 1997, UNESCO’s Director-General has condemned the killings of journalists as per Resolution 29 of the 29th UNESCO General Conference and beginning in 2008, has presented a biennial Report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity to the International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC) Council. The numbers are alarming. In 2012 alone there were 121 journalists killed – almost twice as many killings than in previous years.
UNESCO has championed The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity which was further endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board on 13 April 2012. The plan provides a framework for the UN to work on this issue with all stakeholders including national authorities, local and international NGOs, media houses, academia
Most recently, UNESCO 191st Executive Board adopted the UNESCO Work Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in April 2013, which further complements the organization’s existing work in the field already in line with the UN Plan of Action and emphasis on South-South cooperation.
Cooperation is also reinforced with the Office of Special Procedures including the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and other regional Rapporteurs including Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (AUC), Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Organization of the American States (OAS), and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)