UNESCO, as the lead United Nations agency for press freedom and the safety of journalists, greets with hope yesterday’s announcement by the Guatemalan government that the country will launch a new mechanism to protect journalists.
The Guatemalan government states in one of its documents that the country is amongst the five countries with the most cases of crimes committed against journalists in the last 20 years.
In the last ten years more than 600 journalists have been killed worldwide. On average, out of every 10 crimes committed against journalists only one is investigated, leading to punitive action.
In view of this serious global situation, the heads of all UN funds, agencies and programmes, in April 2012, adopted the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue Impunity.
This Plan, together with its implementation strategy contains concrete policies that can be used as a starting point for the detailed construction of Guatemala’s concrete mechanism, helping to elaborate the overall design which was presented yesterday.
UNESCO underlines its availability as an international and neutral organization, specialised in this subject, to facilitate dialogue with all stakeholders (journalists, media, civil society organizations, academia, governments, judiciary, legislative powers). This process can inform an efficient development and implementation of Guatemala’s National Plan, as well as its monitoring strategy.
In other countries, UNESCO is taking action with judiciary powers (in Brazil), the police (in Tunisia), and national coordination mechanisms (in Pakistan). By sharing these experiences, and including the developments in Guatemala, UNESCO fulfils its mandate of improving the promotion of safety of journalists through South-South cooperation and exchange of knowledge.
UNESCO is already applying to the Guatemalan context, a set of indicators on the safety of journalists. The findings of this research can serve as a baseline for monitoring changes in the safety of journalists, and for discussion by stakeholders about the implementation of the mechanism that was introduced yesterday.