Participants at the 2nd United Nations (UN) Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity have agreed to work with civil society and the media to heighten awareness and foster safety initiatives for journalists.
The meeting which took place at the United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV) on November 22 and 23, 2012 was convened by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and co-hosted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the support of the governement of Austria.
The meeting brought together representatives from 15 UN bodies and more than 40 non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, independent experts, media groups and professional associations.
Discussions over the two-days led to a rich exchange of experiences and ideas on ways to strengthen the role of the United Nations, establishing partnerships with governmental, intergovernmental and other organizations and groups, and working with civil society and the media.
The decision to organize the meeting followed the endorsement of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity by the UN Chief Executives Board on April 13, 2012.
The purpose of the meeting was to decide on substantial steps for the implementation of the UN Action Plan that is intended to lead to a noticeable reduction of violence against journalists. This was achieved by formulating a concrete implementation strategy at global and national levels by outlining more than 100 areas of work by UN bodies and civil society groups to secure the safety of journalists.
The areas of work include helping governments to develop laws on safety and freedom of expression, awareness-raising for citizens, training in safety and e-safety, provision of health care, emergency responses mechanisms, conflict zones, decriminalization of defamation, and remuneration of journalists.
A draft implementation strategy called for enhancing protection for women journalists in response to the increasing incidence of sexual harassment and rape, encouraging adequate remuneration for full-time and freelance employees, and establishing real time emergency exits/response for journalists.
More than 100 journalists have been killed so far this year, making 2012 the deadliest year for the media since UNESCO began keeping records on the issue. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, emphasized that attacks on media workers have a far-reaching effect on society, threatening to silence all citizens.
“These attacks – not only the many murders and physical assaults, but also the countless abduction, the acts of harassment, the illegal arrests, the arbitrary detentions – have an impact that reaches well beyond the personal suffering of the person involved. They aim to silence the journalist and, by extension, all of us,” he said.
The victims involved in the attacks were more of local correspondents than war reporters who were covering drug peddling and illegal logging. It is reported that 32 journalists died in Syria while covering the conflict with another 18 killed in Somalia in the line of duty.
Participants pledged that all stakeholders should work together with relevant national authorities to ensure that the recommendations of the UN Plan of Action were applied at the country level.