Current challenges to free and safe journalism were the focus of a plenary session at Deutsche Welle’s annual Global Media Forum in Bonn on Monday, 22 June, in which UNESCO participated.
Peter Noorlander, Head of the Media Legal Defence Initiative, spoke of a growing tendency of legal persecution of journalists, with cases being brought on pretexts such as tax fraud.
New threats were identified by Dr Antonia Rados, chief correspondent for foreign affairs, RTL Television, Germany. She said that her station no longer put all its content online, because this could endanger some interviewees due to the reach of the Internet.
She added that terror groups no longer respected journalists, because they now had their own media operations. An international community of journalists needed to be built to regain power.
Zalah Zater, former reporter for Libyan stations Al-Assema TV and Al-Nabaa, described how mounting threats forced him to leave his country, and that many journalists had left the profession rather than work for propaganda media.
UNESCO’s Guy Berger said that all actors needed reliable information and coverage, which meant there was a possibility to persuade media owners and extreme groups to recognize the autonomy of journalists. Awareness should be raised that those attacking journalists could incur severe consequences at a later point.
Berger also signaled the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity as a framework for building coalitions to protect the work of the press and ensure rule of law in case of attacks.