Governments urged to strengthen policies to protect journalists
MANILA, Philippines – Representatives of United Nations (UN) agencies and members of civil society and media called on governments to strengthen safety programs to protect journalists and end impunity for crimes against them.
Key stakeholders gathered on June 29 in a meeting organized by UNESCO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss recommendations to strengthen the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova noted that too many journalists face threats to their lives and security, with women journalists facing particular forms of harassment.
"Murder remains the most tragic form of censorship. Over the last decade, one journalist was killed every 4 days and in more than 9 out of 10 cases, perpetrators went unpunished," Bokova said.
Participants highlighted the need for countries to develop national policies and practices for media practitioners. UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Frank La Rue called on UN member states to set up a national mechanism for the safety of journalists.
Digital security issues are also new threats facing journalists, with Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa pointing out the risks faced by women journalists online.
"Online attacks now occur at a frequency and scale that we've never experienced before. We need new ways to protect journalists, to deal with what technology has enabled because computational propaganda means to stifle any challenge or dissent against power," she said.
Ressa's story on how she suffered online harassment was also featured in a new book launched by UNESCO, titled "An Attack on One is an Attack on All: Successful Initiatives to Protect and Combat Impunity." The book features 22 stories of efforts to protect journalists and stop the culture of impunity.
"I'm very proud that this book serves to bring to life stories of survival and success that would otherwise remain untold... These stories can help in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action," said Albana Shala, chairperson of the International Programme for the Development of Communication. – Rappler.com