Safety of journalists

IPDC plays an important role in monitoring the safety of journalists and in preventing the impunity of those who perpetrate crimes against them. Guaranteeing media professionals the right to work free from the threat of violence is essential for the full implementation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It is a duty of the State and of society to create and maintain the conditions needed for these fundamental human rights to be enjoyed by all.

Background

UNESCO’s Director-General began condemning the killings of journalists in 1997, in line with Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference which urges the competent authorities to discharge their duty of preventing, investigating and punishing crimes when these are perpetrated to prevent freedom of expression but also the right of other people to receive information, and remedying their consequences.

In 2006, the safety of journalists was the subject of a thematic debate conducted during the twenty fifth session of the Intergovernmental Council of the IPDC. Two years later, at its 26th session, the UNESCO Director-General presented the first report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity to the IPDC Intergovernmental Council as a follow-up to the thematic debate.

At this meeting, the Council adopted a Decision on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which gives to IPDC a central role in monitoring the follow-up of killings condemned by UNESCO’s Director-General. This Decision urges Member States “to comply with the relevant obligations under international law to end impunity” and “to inform the Director-General of UNESCO, on a voluntary basis, of the actions taken to prevent the impunity of the perpetrators and to notify him of the status of the judicial inquiries conducted on each of the killings condemned by UNESCO”.

Since then, every two years the Director-General of UNESCO submits to the IPDC Council a report on The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity as a monitoring tool for follow-up.

The continual killing of journalists is a disturbing reality

The 2016 UNESCO Director-General Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity will be presented to the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication’s (IPDC) during its upcoming 30th session, on 17-18 November, 2016. This is in accordance with its Decision on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted in March 2008 and renewed in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The Report offers an overview of the killings of journalists condemned by the Director-General in 2014-2015 as well as an analysis of the killings condemned over the last 10 years, between 2006 and 2015. It further presents an update on the status of investigations into these killings based on the information provided by Member States.

 

Find out more on the UNESCO Director-General Report by visiting its dedicated website: en.unesco.org/dg-report

 

The 2016 Report reveals that over the course of the last decade, a total of 827 journalists have lost their lives for bringing information to the public. On average, this constitutes one casualty every five days. With only 8% of cases considered resolved (63 out of 827), impunity for these crimes is alarmingly high. In 2014-2015 alone, 213 journalists lost their lives; 2015 was the second deadliest year for journalists in the last ten years with 115 journalists killed. It was also marked by a single, unprecedented attack against a media outlet which was deliberately targeted resulting in the death of eight journalists. In 2014, UNESCO recorded 98 cases of killings of journalists. This impedes the free flow of information that is so vital for sustainable development, peace building, and the social welfare of humankind. This widespread impunity fuels and perpetuates a cycle of violence aimed towards silencing media and stifling public debate.

The 2016 Report further reveals that, since UNESCO began requesting information for the Director-General’s reports to IPDC, covering the period of killings from 2006 onwards and up until the end of 2015, 59 Member States of the 70 Member States contacted have responded at least once the judicial follow-up to journalists’ killings, while 11 have never sent a response. This shows a significant increase in the respond trend of Member States to the UNESCO Director-General requests for information in this regard. The issues of the safety of journalists and impunity have also received increased attention from the international community, as reflected by the numerous international resolutions on safety adopted in recent years and by the inclusion of journalists’ safety as an indicator of the SDGs. The vital role of information in achieving a better world for each and every one of us is widely recognized, as it serves not only as a goal in itself but also as an enabler of wider positive change.

The 2016 Report concludes by highlighting the importance of not lo9sing momentum of this current progress. The safety of journalists can only be ensured by tackling the “three Ps” – prevention, protection and prosecution – via an all-encompassing approach, involving each stakeholder. In order to secure peace, democracy, and sustainable development, it is imperative that the free flow information remains uninhibited. 

 

Learn more about the UNESCO Director-General Report here.

 

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