UN Moves to Protect Journalists

The United Nations, UN, has adopted The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity which was championed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

The Plan was endorsed on Friday, April 13, by the chief executives board which is the highest level coordination mechanism of the UN system.

According to a release by UNESCO on Wednesday, April 18, the Plan targets the “creation of a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers in both conflict and non-conflict situations” to strengthen peace, democracy and development worldwide.

At the board’s meeting, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, told members that “the safety of journalists is essential to upholding Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees the right to freedom of expression.”

The world body noted that some 500 journalists and media workers have been killed in the last decade while many have been wounded or threatened while carrying out professional responsibilities.

Quoting the UNESCO director general’s report on the safety of journalists and the danger of impunity, the agency observed that in 2011 alone, 62 journalists were killed around the world.

In most cases, it observed, the journalists were not reporting armed conflicts but local stories on corruption, organized crimes and drugs.

Due to this situation, the UN said “there has been a pressing need for the various UN agencies, funds and programmes to develop a single, strategic and harmonized approach in order to have greater impact on combating the issue.”

The statement elaborated that the approval of the Plan would lead to the establishment of a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to safety of journalists.

It will help to involve other intergovernmental organizations at international and regional levels to encourage the incorporation of media development programmes that would ensure safety of journalists.

    The UN would also employ the Plan to assist countries through development of legislation and supportive mechanisms to sustain freedom of expression and information, and also to support efforts at implementing existing international rules and principles.

    The Plan would make UNESCO to work with governments, media houses, professional associations and non governmental organisations, NGOs, to raise awareness on existing international instruments and conventions, and on dangers posed by emerging threats to media professionals and various existing practical guides on the safety of journalists.

    The statement also explained that through the Plan, it would relate with countries to include materials relevant to the safety of journalists and impunity in the curricula of journalism education.

    The adoption of this Plan is the result of a process that stared in 2010 by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication,  IPDC.

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