In the aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, Albana Shala, the chairperson of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), has expressed strong support for the safety of journalists.
A special guest at the “Journalism after Charlie” event on 14 January at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Ms Shala underlined to the more than 400 participants why IPDC supported journalists’ safety.
She noted that while there are different reasons why journalists become targets of killers, there was also “something in common between the murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, investigative journalists and political correspondents shot dead in Mexico, Philippines, Pakistan and Syria”.
“In all cases, these journalists and others have been killed because of the public role they play. They have been killed by people who believe it is legitimate to stop words and images with violence. In all cases, the effect is the same. The murdered journalists cannot bear witness, and society no longer has the choice of knowing what they would have said.”
The Chair’s remarks mirrored those of speakers such as UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, the cartoonist Plantu, as well as journalists from several countries and religious leaders.
The Chair added that she herself worked on a daily basis with journalists in conflict regions and countries in transition. “These are the ones who dare denounce corruption, crime, human rights abuses. They are the ones who are threatened, arrested and even killed.”
She pointed out that IPDC monitors all these cases and draws attention to the fact that killings of journalists are not just against individuals, but also an assault on everyone’s right to free expression, and on society’s right to know.
“The IPDC’s monitoring shows that there is a fundamental issue that Governments should deal with - the issue of impunity. Dealing with impunity calls for legal and institutional reform. It calls for will and courage on the part of Member States to protect journalists and bring to justice the drug barons, the corrupted politicians, the fundamentalists.”
She concluded: “The recent events underline the importance of what we do, and they encourage us to redouble our efforts. I pledge that IPDC will continue to strive for a world in which everyone is safe to speak and where justice is made.”
Other special guests included Christophe Deloire of Reporters sans frontières, Jesper Hojberg of International Media Support, and Dominique Pradalié of the Syndicat national des journalists (SNJ). The event was supported financially by the delegations of Austria, France and Sweden, and was done in partnership with broadcast station France Culture.