There is unprecedented international effort to halt impunity for the killings of journalists, and the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity deserves to be strongly and actively supported. These were the words of Peter Horrocks, Director of BBC Global News this week.
He was speaking at a symposium in London on 7 April, hosted by BBC Global News and the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield, called ‘Making the Protection of Journalists A Reality: Time to end Impunity’.
Horrocks countered reservations in the media about proactive engagement on safety issues, adding that “major news organizations have a special responsibility to show leadership”.
Other speakers also made reference to the UN Plan, including the Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Joel Simon. He said that the UN had made a high level commitment to the safety of journalists, and that defined progress was needed if this was to be more than public relations.
Speaking at the symposium, the UNESCO Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger, noted increasing momentum in the UN. He pointed to:
- the December 2013 resolution at the UN General Assembly which created the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November each year.
- the recent Human Rights Council resolution in March 2014 which recognised the importance of safety for journalists in the coverage of peaceful protests.
The BBC symposium included a protest (pictured above) led by Peter Horrocks, which was staged in front of the BBC building, and called for the release of journalists on trial and an end to impunity for the killers of journalists.
Reporters Sans Frontiers Director Christof Deloire criticised states that “protect their image more than protecting journalists.” Other speakers described conditions in several regions, noting that some governments sought to protect their image by persecuting journalists – an action that paradoxically harmed their image even more.
Further discussion addressed how court rulings, although often slow to secure, could set precedents to assist the safety of journalists. Also addressed was the importance of supporting families of killed journalists especially given their leading role in securing justice for their slain relatives.
Cherilyn Ireton, Director of the World Editors Forum, said it was time to move the story of safety of journalists from the news rooms to the news pages.