Safety of Journalists

Promoting the safety of journalists and combatting impunity for those who attack them are central elements within UNESCO´s support for press freedom on all media platforms. On average, every five days a journalist is killed for bringing information to the public. Attacks on media professionals are often perpetrated in non-conflict situations by organized crime groups, militia, security personnel, and even local police, making local journalists among the most vulnerable. These attacks include murder, abductions, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest, and arbitrary detention.

The majority of abuses against media professionals remain uninvestigated and unpunished. This impunity fuels and perpetuates the cycle of violence against journalists, media workers and citizen journalists. The resulting self-censorship deprives society of information and further affects press freedom. The killing of journalists and the widespread impunity directly impact the United Nations’ human rights based efforts to promote peace, security, and sustainable development.

Consequently, UNESCO is committed to advancing freedom of press and safety of journalists, both offline and online, through a variety of actions. Under the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, actions are structured around six axes: standard-setting and policy making; awareness-raising; monitoring and reporting; capacity building; academic research; and coalition building. The UN Plan of Action is the first concerted effort within the UN system to address these issues via a multi-stakeholder and holistic approach and brings together UN bodies, national authorities, media, and civil society organizations. It contributes directly to the achievement of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Since 1997, UNESCO’s Director-General has condemned each killing of a journalist, and compiles the biannual Report on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity to the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) since 2008. It consists of updated information voluntarily received from Member States on the judicial status of cases of killed journalists. The UNESCO Director-General’s Report plays an important role in monitoring the safety of journalists and in preventing the impunity of those who perpetrate crimes against them.

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