Journalism safety tops the agenda of two conferences in Doha

The protection of journalism was the most prominent theme at the recent congress of the International Press Institute, and the World Media Summit, with Aljazeera Media Network as a partner in both events.

Taking place in Doha from 19 to 21 March, the two events also adopted a new “International Declaration on the Protection of Journalists”, which, they hope, may ultimately be endorsed by the United Nations.

This was the third time WMS has been held, and it brings together international media actors such as Aljazeera, Xinhua, Associated Press and Sputnik media amongst others.

Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, was part of the opening of the World Media Summit, along with the Chair of the Aljazeera Media Network Sheik Hamad bin Thamir al Thani and Cai Mingzhao, the President of Xinhua news agency.

In his remarks, Berger highlighted the progress made under the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, including the convening of the “News organizations standing up for the safety of media professionals” event, and he urged media actors to set the pace. 

IPI’s congress, titled “Journalism at Risk – safety and professionalism in a dangerous world” featured a special panel “Protecting safety through international mechanisms and newsroom protocols”.

In his remarks, acting Director-General of Aljazeera, Dr Mustefa Souag, told fellow media leaders: “If you allow attacks on other journalists to happen, it will happen to you.” He appealed for journalists to stick to professional standards and not call for restrictions on fellow media.

Berger said that international mechanisms such as those in the UN system were not a substitute for national mechanisms, nor for newsroom protocols. “But they create a powerful climate of international opinion and what is acceptable as a global norm. They are keeping safety of journalists on the agenda of the international community, and enabling support to be given to national, local and industry actions.”

A contribution from Frank Smythe of Global Journalist Security proposed a strong role for international support for local prosecutions to end impunity, expanding on experiences such as in Lebanon and Guatemala.