From 25 to 27 February 2013, UNESCO and the Aljazeera Media Training & Development Center trained more than 35 Yemeni journalists on the principles and standards of freedom of expression enshrined in international treaties and national legislation, freedom of information rights and the responsibilities of the press. The training, which took place in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, improved the skills of journalists in using the knowledge on freedom of expression in their media coverage and in integrating reference to the standards of freedom of expression in all the news, reports and programmes.
The underlying rationale for building awareness and understanding of free expression rights and standards among journalists is that they play a critical role in building this awareness among the public at large, which is essential to the development of democratic and free societies. The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity mandates UNESCO to play a leading role in the inter-agency effort to create a free and safe environment for journalists. Trainings like the one that took place in Sana’a are key components towards making concrete progress on this goal.
The three-day workshop consisted of three interactive sessions per day, led by a regional expert, and included practical examples for discussion. For example, in the workshop led by Dr Hassan Sa'aeed Al-Mujaammar on “The approach of promotion and protection of human rights in media coverage” specific examples of gender equality in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights were discussed. This allowed ^participants to ask questions about how the rights codified in international conventions can be practically addressed in the content they produce.
Journalists are on the frontlines of covering the ongoing transition in Yemen, which has seen a proliferation of new media outlets but also rising insecurity for journalists amid heighted levels of violence. During the 2011 uprisings and political transition, more than 580 violations were reported, including more than 280 physical attacks and at least three deaths. The need to improve journalist safety and upgrade the capacity of journalists to work under these conditions is clear, as is building the capacity of journalists to contribute to the democratic transition underway. Participants learned how to support the campaign to end impunity by tracking and following up on abuses of freedom of expression and limiting the spread of abuse cases, as well as how to enable victims to tell their story.
The workshop enjoyed support from the Yemen government and from the Minister of Media, who opened the event. The impact of this important workshop was felt beyond the participants themselves as it received extensive media coverage on television, the press and online, ensuring that a broader swath of the public also learned more about their rights and about the challenges journalists face in Yemen, and the critical importance of improving safety and fighting impunity. This work is being done in the framework of the project, entitled “Promoting an Enabling Environment for Freedom of Expression”, financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).