UNESCO enhances freedom of expression in the Arab region with the support of Finland

With a contribution of 2.3 million Euros from Finland, UNESCO will implement a new project in the Arab region to strengthen the legal and regulatory frameworks conducive to freedom of expression and ensure the safety of journalists and bloggers, including through their improving capacity to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) safely.

On 30 January UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Finland to UNESCO, Antti Kuosmanen, signed an agreement that strengthens UNESCO’s activities in the field of freedom of expression in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia and Yemen.

UNESCO’S Communication and Information Sector welcomes this collaboration as it contributes to efforts already underway in the region for freedom of expression, press freedom and freedom of information. Mr Jānis Kārkliņš, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information says that a “free, independent and pluralistic media facilitates dialogue and enables mobilization for positive social and political change in the Arab region.”

The project will help to strengthen the legal and regulatory frameworks conducive to freedom of expression, press freedom and freedom of information, fostering reforms in accordance with international standards. High-level officials, lawyers, law professors and civil society advocates will share knowledge, gain skills, and strengthen networking toward establishing a system of regulation conducive to freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of the media.

The agreement will also contribute to the safety of media professionals, citizen journalists and bloggers and the fight against impunity in crimes committed against them. Training for journalists and security forces will be held to discuss cooperation in the judicial framework of the media and to elaborate codes of conduct, standard operating procedures and training manuals, in order to ensure concrete implementation of new behaviours within the security forces towards enhanced respect for the rights of journalists.

By improving the awareness and capacities of journalists and bloggers for the safe utilization of ICTs, the project will also contribute to protecting journalists’ identity in transmission of location and content. The aim is to provide safety for journalists, bloggers and citizen journalists and to reinforce critical coverage of local developments.

To advance gender equality through enhanced freedom of expression and access to information, the project will reinforce the role of public service broadcasters as platforms to foster the rights and dignity of women. The project will sensitize media professionals and reinforce their capacities through training on production of audio-visual content, following a gender-sensitive approach. One resource in this area will be the recent UNESCO publication Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media.

The project will also permit the establishment of two Youth Information Centres (YIC) for displaced Syrian youth. These centres, established in the North of Lebanon and at Al Zaatari Camp in Jordan, will provide Syrian youth with a place to learn, access information, and express themselves.