Media professionals from around the world adopt Medellin Declaration on Safety of Journalists and Combating Impunity
Some 200 media professionals from around the world adopted a declaration laying the ground for a wide range of measures to improve the safety of journalists and punish crimes against them.
The "Medellin Declaration Securing the Safety of Journalists and Combating Impunity", came at the close of a two-day international conference on Press Freedom organized by UNESCO in the Colombian city on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2007.
The Declaration voices concern over attacks on freedom of the press including murder, abductions, hostage-taking, intimidation, illegal arrests and detention against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel because of their professional activities. It furthermore notes that most attacks on media professionals occur outside situations of armed conflict.
The Medellin Declaration urges States to comply with the commitments of Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO's General Conference in 1997 to combat impunity of crimes against journalists and Resolution 1738, recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, regarding the status of journalists.
The link between freedom of expression and development is recognized by the Medellin Declaration. It asks UNESCO Member States to make respect for freedom of expression and fighting impunity a condition for granting of financial assistance and calls for an end to statute of limitations for crimes committed to prevent the exercise of freedom of information and expression. It also recognizes the important contribution of freedom of expression to good governance, a necessary condition for economic development.
The Declaration furthermore calls on news associations to promote actions that secure the safety of journalists including, safety training, healthcare, life insurance, and equal access to social protection for free-lance employees and full-time staff.
Press Freedom Day (3 May) celebrations and the award ceremony of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize were held in Colombia to mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Prize, named after Colombian newspaper editor Guillermo Cano. Guillermo Cano was murdered in 1986 by drug barons whose influence on Colombian society he denounced.
Anna Politkovskaya, another journalist who paid for her professional integrity with her life, was awarded this year's Press Freedom Prize posthumously. Ms Politkovskaya was murdered in October 2006 in her Moscow apartment building. Her son Ilya Politkovsky was at the ceremony to receive the award, which is supported by the Cano Foundation and by the Ottaway Foundation.
As he handed over the award, the Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura declared that "every aggression against a journalist is an attack against our fundamental freedom. These individuals who risk their lives to provide independent and reliable information deserve more than our respect and gratitude. They demand our commitment and protection."
A declaration of support by the President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and an address by Colombian Justice Minister Carlos Holguín Sardi were read to the participants at the start of the ceremony. The Colombian Vice President, Francisco Santos Calderón, the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Adriana Mejia, and the Mayor of Medellin, Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, later took the floor.
The Conference was co-organized by UNESCO with the Vice Presidency of Colombia and the City of Medellin.