10th anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of journalists
The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity is the first concerted effort within the UN to address attacks and impunity of crimes against journalists, with a multi-stakeholder and holistic approach. It brings together UN bodies, national authorities, media, and civil society organizations.
The UN Plan has achieved a series of developments in the last 10 years. The issue of safety of journalists has a higher visibility in the UN, as evidenced by the increasing number of declarations, resolutions and other normative texts, and the UN Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights. Protecting journalists is also part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Plan has also contributed to building international coalitions of governments and civil society and served to bring about changes on the ground, such as the creation of national safety mechanisms in at least 50 countries.
But despite these achievements, challenges still exist. The high rate of impunity for crimes against journalists persists and new forms of threats develop in unprecedented ways.
The 10-year anniversary is a milestone to Reaffirm, Recommit and Reposition efforts to advance the UN Plan.
- Reaffirm the relevance of the UN Plan of Action as the blueprint of all parties involved tasked with protecting the safety of journalists.
- Recommit political will, purpose and resources to advance the Plan’s objectives.
- Reposition to increase impact on the ground, prevent attacks, protect journalists in danger and hold those accountable that are responsible for attacks against journalists.
Regional and Thematic consultations
UNESCO is organizing a series of regional consultations with local stakeholders to take a stock of the progress and challenges to protect journalists in the last ten years and to strategize how to implement the Plan more effectively, building upon the success stories and the lessons learned in the specific context of each region. Two thematic consultations will focus on internet transparency and safety of women journalists, whose impact and significance to the safety of journalists has evolved in the last 10 years. Academic consultations will also bring reflections on how the academic community can contribute to advancing the Plan.
The consultations will inform a set of recommendations which will be presented at the High-Level Ministerial Conference in Vienna, Austria, on 3-4 November 2022. The Conference is convened by the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with UNESCO and OHCHR, to mark the 10th anniversary on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on 2 November.
The regional consultations are supported under UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP) and the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
Safety of journalists in the Digital Age
13 September 2022, KLUB, Copenhagen, Denmark
Organized in partnership with Tech for Democracy, International Media Support (IMS), OHCHR, the Danish National Commission for UNESCO, and the Global Network Initiative (GNI)
Safety of Women Journalists
3 October 2022, Bangkok, Thailand
Co-organized with the Association for Progressive Communications
- A first consultation was held at UNESCO HQ in Paris on 30 May in connection with the International Communication Association’s (ICA) annual conference and the second session was held on 9 June, ahead of the 2022 International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) Conference, held on July 11-15)
- Co-organized with the Journalism Safety Research Network, the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield, the World of Journalism Study and the Centre for Digital Politics, Media and Democracy, University of Liverpool.
More about the UN Plan
Learn more about the UN Plan of Action and how it advances global and local efforts to protect journalists worldwide. Read the FAQS below:
What is the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity?
The UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity is the agreed blueprint for concrete action for multiple stakeholders to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers, both in conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to strengthening peace, democracy and development worldwide.
Its measures include the establishment of a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to the safety of journalists as well as assisting countries to develop legislation and mechanisms favourable to freedom of expression and information and supporting their efforts to implement existing international rules and principles.
To further reinforce prevention, the UN Plan of Action recommends working in cooperation with governments, media houses, professional associations, and NGOs to conduct awareness raising campaigns on a wide range of issues such as existing international instruments and conventions, the growing dangers posed by emerging threats to media professionals, including non-state actors, as well as various existing practical guides on the safety of journalists.
What is the current situation?
85% of the world’s population have experienced a decline in press freedom in their country over the past five years. (World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development 2021/2022 Global Report)
UNESCO’s observatory of killed journalists, records that over 1,200 journalists have been killed between 2006 and 2021, with close to 9 out of 10 of these cases remaining judicially unresolved.
The war in Ukraine is reversing the global trend of decline in journalist killings in the previous years. As of mid-year 2022, killings have reached 75% of all killings last year with 43 journalists killed from 24 countries.
In parallel, journalists are increasingly facing alternative forms of silencing such as imprisonment, online violence and strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).
Often these attacks disproportionately affect women journalists or those who may be vulnerable based on other aspects of their identity, such as ethnicity, skin colour, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.
73% of women journalists surveyed have experienced harassment and threats online according to The Chilling: Global trends in online violence against women journalists, a global study commissioned by UNESCO.
It is therefore of great importance to reflect on the continuous evolution of the implementation of the UNPA in light of emerging challenges.
Why is it important for the public at large to understand the issue and support it?
Press freedom and safety of journalists are direct enablers of broader human rights. Declining press freedom affects every part of society. Journalists directly inform communities and societies. Preserving their freedom of expression and ability to work safely leads to a diverse and plural media landscape, ultimately ensuring freedom of information and encouraging democratic debate.
Why is the Un Plan of Action important, what is its purpose and what has it achieved so far?
The UN Plan of Action is the first concerted effort within the UN system to address the issues of safety of journalists and impunity via a multi-stakeholder and holistic approach and brings together UN bodies, national authorities, media, and civil society organizations. It contributes directly to the achievement of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. In the last ten years, the UNPA has also achieved a series of developments including:
- Seeing the safety of journalists, through SDG indicator 16.10.1, unequivocally connected with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and with the consolidation of democracies and protection and promotion of other human rights;
- The approval of a significant number of declarations, resolutions and other normative texts;
- The UN Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights, which clearly highlights the need to protect journalists;
- The first special session on the topic organized by the presidents of the three relevant bodies in the UN System – the UN General Assembly, the UNESCO General Conference and the Human Rights Council – resulting in a joint declaration at the World Press Freedom Conference 2022;
- A growing number of recommendations accepted by member states related to safety of journalists, as witnessed through the Universal Periodical Review;
- Individual or joint reports by the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, both UN and regional, that have contributed hugely to further understand the political, policy and programmatic challenges that need to be addressed to increase the safety of journalists, including the most recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur;
- Global and regional platforms in Europe and Africa that were developed to monitor the safety of journalists;
- Capacity building by training of more than 23,000 judicial operators from 150 countries and of more than 10.000 security forces from 120 countries on safety of journalists issues, supported by UNESCO;
- The creation and/or reinforcement of safety mechanisms with UNESCO’s cooperation and through the Multi Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists and the Global Media Defence Fund.
What are the roles of the different stakeholders?
How can governments, judicial community, media outlets, civil society, journalists’ associations, journalists’ schools and young journalists, regional and international organizations as well as internet platform providers/the private sector do to help support the safety of journalists?
Since its conception, the UNPA has been guiding multistakeholder efforts to protect the safety of journalists and combat impunity. Building new coalitions while strengthening existing ones is therefore central to the UNPA. In the past decade, it has generated and improved cooperation on these issues, mainly by having fostered:
- A network of UN Focal Points for the Safety of Journalists (with the participation of several UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes);
- An informal task force of Intergovernmental Organizations outside the UN system;
- Six Groups of Friends of Safety of Journalists – informal structures of committed countries, whose permanent missions in New York (UN Secretariat), Paris (UNESCO), Geneva (OHCHR), Vienna (OSCE), Strasbourg (Council of Europe) and Washington (OAS), which are constantly advocating for better multilateral policies for a safer environment for journalists and media workers;
- A Media Freedom Coalition of more than 50 countries;
- An International Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for the Safety of Journalists;
- A Journalism Safety Research Network.
Only by engaging on the safety of journalists through the UNPA’s three pillars of prevention, protection, and prosecution can there be holistic solutions and the preservation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
How did it come about?
The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity is the result of a process that began in 2010 upon request of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
The UN Plan of Action was prepared during the first UN Inter-Agency Meeting on this issue in September 2011, convened by the Director-General of UNESCO at the request of the IPDC Intergovernmental Council. On 12 April 2012, it was endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board, the highest level coordination mechanism in the UN system. Consequently, a second UN Inter-Agency meeting took place in November 2012 where a comprehensive Implementation Strategy was adopted. The strategy included over 120 concrete actions that could be taken on the protection of journalists and its related issues.
The Implementation Strategy served as the basis for the review process which took place during the third UN Inter-Agency meeting, which was held in November 2014 in concurrence with the inaugural International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The meeting reviewed the implementation of the UN Plan of Action from 2013 to 2014 including the successes, challenges, lessons learnt and the way forward.
On 29 June 2017, a Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Strengthening the Implementation of the UN Plan of Action took place in Geneva, Switzerland to take stock of developments and best practices of the first five years of the implementation of the UN Plan of Action. The Outcome Document of this meeting lists a variety of possible options for specific stakeholders to enhance the impact of the UN Plan of Action. A comprehensive report that details the key achievements, challenges and lessons learnt of the UN Plan of Action's first five years can be consulted here.