The four Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists at UNESCO, the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the OSCE published on Tuesday 14 April a joint statement on safety of journalists and the role of the media in access to information during the current health crisis.
This is the first time the Groups of Friends publish a joint statement, in an initiative that aligns with the spirit of multilateralism which has motivated the United Nations for 75 years.
In their text, the Chairs of the Groups of Friends Austria, France, Greece, Lithuania and Sweden, along with 36 co-signatories, call on all States to protect the safety of media workers, to safeguard independent media and to ensure access to information by all.
The statement also highlights recent restrictive measures taken by authorities around the world hindering freedom of expression and prosecuting journalists under the guise of curbing the spread of the virus, as well as the risks faced by media workers while covering the health crisis as they “are subjected to significant physical and psychological risk by being at the frontline reporting on the COVID-19 crisis” and “are working under extremely challenging conditions, partly because of lack of sanitary precautions and training, but also because of psychological stress linked to the rapidly evolving situation”.
Together, the Groups of Friends recall the importance of public trust for public health. The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic can only be successful if the general public complies with governmental guidelines, and if the public is accurately informed by free and independent media: “Everyone has the right to comprehensible, accessible, timely and reliable information concerning the nature and level of the threat COVID-19 poses to their health, allowing them to follow evidence-based guidance on how to stay safe”.
Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists have been created in New York, Geneva, Paris and Vienna since 2016 with the purpose of improving multilateral cooperation to prevent violence, protect journalists in danger, prosecute perpetrators and ensure a safe environment for media workers.
Read the full statement here.