UNESCO research is previewed at editors’ congress

Findings from a forthcoming UNESCO publication “Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age” were shared at the World Editors Forum in Washington DC, this week. The occasion was the annual congress of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The research for the publication, which examines 121 countries, found that source protection had lagged and that laws needed to be introduced or amended to recognize the issues of the digital age.

A leaflet summarizing the findings was circulated at the meeting, where UNESCO was represented on the panel by Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger.

The leaflet reads: “The legal frameworks that protect the confidential sources of journalism internationally are essential to reporting information in the public interest – information that may otherwise never have come to light.”

The document references key UNESCO and United Nations statements on the topic. An 11 point framework is proposed, as a way to assess the effectiveness of source protection law in the digital age.

The research was done by WAN-IFRA for UNESCO, within the framework of the wider study of the Internet that was mandated by Resolution 52 of the 37th General Conference.

According to the findings, protection of journalism sources in the digital age needs reform of surveillance systems as recommended by the General Assembly, law reform within states, training of journalists in digital safety, and efforts to education the public and sources in secure digital communications.

A strong theme at the WAN-IFRA conference was the safety of journalists and the problem of impunity for attacks against them.