Special Academic Session on Safety of Journalists

The recent high profile attacks on journalists demonstrated the severe threats and dangers journalists and media workers often face in the pursuit of their work. Yet, these attacks are but a tip of the iceberg in the history of violence against journalists. According to UNESCO’s data, more 700 journalists and media workers have been killed in the last 10 years.

Silencing the journalist through death is the ultimate act of censorship, which averages to more than one journalist killed every week. The situation is further aggravated by other threats ranging from intimidation and harassment to restrictive policies and arbitrary detention, including attacks on women journalists. Equally worrying, more than nine out of ten cases of killing of journalists remain unsolved. The end result is a vicious cycle of impunity and a chilling effect on society in a climate of fear and self-censorship.

Nevertheless, until recently, journalists’ safety has seldom been a topic of systematic and in-depth academic research. Therefore, in collaboration with the Global Communication Association (GCA) Conference, UNESCO is organizing a Special Session on Safety of Journalists during the 10th GCA Conference taking place in the city of Berlin, Germany from 16 -19 July 2015.

This Special Session is the first in a series of dedicated workshops organized by UNESCO, aiming to strengthen cooperation with academia in line with the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and to establish an academic research agenda on journalists’ safety. In the Special Session, different aspects of journalists’ safety and issue of impunity will be discussed. The Special Session invites theoretically informed papers/presentations covering issues such as

  • Media development, human rights and journalists’ safety
  • Societal causes and effects of journalists’ (un)safety
  • Legal frameworks and journalists’ safety
  • Journalistic practices, working conditions and journalists’ safety
  • Journalism education, professionalism and safety
  • Journalists’ safety in conflict and non-conflict situations
  • Specific safety threats (gender-specific, topic specific such as war or crime reporting)
  • Psychological effects of safety threats
  • Measuring journalists’ safety

As the UN agency with a specific mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom, UNESCO actively promotes the safety of journalists and those who produce journalism. UNESCO has championed the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity which is the first concerted effort within the UN system to address these issues via a multi-stakeholder and holistic approach. The UN Plan aims towards the creation of a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers in both conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to strengthen peace, democracy, and development worldwide. The UN Plan is a global reference point on safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. The UN Plan is referenced in landmark resolutions adopted the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Details concerning submission dates and requirements can be accessed through the conference’s website at http://gca2015.com/call-for-papers/ . For more information concerning the Special Session on Safety of Journalists and of UNESCO’s work in the area of safety of journalists, please contact Mr. Ming-Kuok Lim (mk.lim(at)unesco.org)