At World Humanitarian Summit protecting journalists key to reporting in crisis situations

Istanbul, 24 May—A call for action to protect journalists and promote independent reporting in crisis situations was issued today by leaders of governments, UN agencies, media outlets and NGOs gathered in a session co-hosted by UNESCO and the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat.

The session focused on challenges and good practices experienced by the media in crisis situations, notably the increased risks to journalists’ safety and the impact of crises their ability to meet professional standards.

UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, said that “today, we must accelerate the global recognition by states of the importance to protect the safety of journalists everywhere, especially in humanitarian emergencies where it plays a vital role in informing, preventing, mitigating and reducing the impacts of crises.

The session Chair, Chairwoman of Turkish Newspaper Hürriyet, Vuslat Doğan Sabancı said that “humanity is facing one of its most significant tests, as millions of people are leaving their homes for safety. The media is playing a critical role, awakening the world's attention to the refugee crisis by giving voice to the pain of the refugees being forced to leave their homes and bringing startling visual images into our consciousness.”

Participants called on Member States, UN agencies and media organizations, to implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. They also focused on specific actions each stakeholder could take to increase their efforts to bring an end to attacks against journalists and to promote independent reporting in crisis situations.

The call requests Member States to create national safety of journalist mechanisms to prevent, and monitor threats against media professional, end impunity by ensuring thorough investigation into such crimes, and improve protection by training security forces and judiciary officials about international human rights and humanitarian law and the role of journalists, all under the framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 16, which calls for States to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.”

It urges UN agencies to continue sharing information and best practices, drawing on their expertise to implement the UN Plan worldwide and monitor journalist safety through the Universal Periodic Review (the UN reporting mechanism on human rights in Member States), UNESCO reports, and progress reports on the implementation of the SDGs.

Finally, Media organizations are called on to ensure that international and local, staff and freelancers, have the training and resources needed to practice their profession safely.

UNESCO, the UN agency mandated to promote freedom of expression, reports that over 825 journalists have been killed in the line of duty over the past ten years. On average, this translates into one media worker killed every five days and in more than nine out of 10 cases, those responsible for the killings are never punished, leading to impunity for crimes against journalists.