An attack on one is an attack on all

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Lars Schmidt (IMS photojournalism trainer)
Photo courtesy of International Media Support
29 June 2017

On 29 June, UNESCO is releasing its new publication An attack on one is an attack on all, on the occasion of the Multi-Stakeholder Consultation meeting on Strengthening the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, to take place in Geneva.

Authored by Larry Kilman, this publication looks at the innovative, successful ways in which media companies, individual journalists and civil society organizations are coming together to improve journalist safety and end impunity – and working successfully with governments in some cases.

While states have primary responsibility to protect journalists and prosecute those who attack them, there is a lot that media and civil society can and are doing as well.

The report is a rich selection of the kinds of work that is being done in this domain. “It is not full of statistics and data. It is, instead, a collection of stories, told in the words of the motivated people who are dedicated to protecting courageous journalists with pro-active measures to make them safer”, says Kilman. “It is written in the hope of inspiring others to support these efforts, perhaps duplicate them, and to raise awareness of the importance of this work”, he adds.

Published by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), this work will contribute to promoting the safety of journalists, one of IPDC's current priorities for project support. The IPDC Programme operates a unique UN-mandated system to monitor killings of media professionals and impunity levels.

More than 120 journalists and other media workers were killed worldwide in 2016 in relation to their work and more than 800 journalists have been killed in the past decade”, says Guy Berger, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Freedom of Expression and Media Development.  Very few of the cases have ever been resolved. Many more journalists undergo harassment, physical attacks, jail and censorship. The culture of impunity is intimidating many others into exile or silence.

Keeping journalists safe can be an expensive proposition. Unfortunately, these threats are coming at a time when news media, particularly newspapers, are undergoing extreme disruption to their business models, reducing revenues at a time when even greater resources are needed.

To deal with these circumstances, new alliances and cooperative efforts are emerging. Media actors and civil society organizations are contributing more and more to safety work. And new ideas are coming from those who have suffered loss of colleagues and from those motivated by the need to protect journalism as a societal good. 

This report recounts 22 good practices. It compiles the stories of local people and organizations who are fighting to protect the safety of journalists at the local level.