UNESCO held a multi-stakeholder consultation on the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in Pakistan. The event was organized in collaboration with the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) of Pakistan, the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) and the Peace and Justice Network (PJN).
Participants included H.E Ambassador of Sweden to Pakistan, Ms. Ingrid Johansson; OHCHR's Human Rights Officer, Ms. Christine Chung; Representative from the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), Mr. Chaudhry Muhammad Shafique; and the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights (PCHR), among other representatives from the government of Pakistan.
Ms. Vibeke Jensen, UNESCO Representative in Pakistan acknowledged the government's efforts especially the NCHR for recognizing the importance of freedom of expression. Ms. Jensen, called upon the stakeholders to use avenues that have not been fully explored, such as: academic research, capacity building of judiciary on legal frameworks on freedom of expression and mechanisms to tackle online risks.
Ms. Chung reiterated that today journalists are exposed to all kinds of threats including online threats. She emphasized that states remain the number one duty bearers in ensuring a safe environment for media and therefore called for increased efforts to live up to their international obligation.
Mr. Chaudhry Muhammad Shafique elaborated on the pressure and risks faced by Pakistani journalists in performing their duties. He also highlighted that it is the government's responsibility to take a lead on creating an environment for protection and safety of journalists in the country. He stated that currently the ownership of the issue is fragmented among relevant ministries.
The avenues available to advance the safety of journalists, such as the Human Rights Council (HRC), the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Special Procedures and human rights treaty bodies, and the development of SDG indicator 16.10.1 to enhance accountability were discussed at length. Increased coordination among relevant stakeholders, increased compliance for existing laws, capacity building of relevant government departments, continuity and sustainability of initiatives and the need for a clearly mandated authority on issues of protection, were the most important themes identified. The participants called upon the media houses to focus on the well-being of journalists in line with international labor standards.
H.E. Ambassador of Sweden to Pakistan, Ms. Ingrid Johansson concluded the consultation by reiterating that freedom of expression is a global issue and Sweden is at the forefront in supporting various countries, including Pakistan, in addressing various issues encompassing freedom of expression.
The consultation concluded with consensus on the need for national and provincial level mechanisms to promote safety of journalists with a special focus on issues pertaining to online and offline safety of female journalists.
This activity was supported by the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists.