Press release

World Press Freedom Conference 2020: UNESCO & OHCHR receive €7m from Netherlands to reinforce freedom of expression


Paris, December 10 – The new partnership between UNESCO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will strengthen press freedom and the safety of journalists, with an endowment of seven million euros announced by Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok at the 2020 World Press Freedom Conference co-organized by UNESCO and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on 9 and 10 December.

The partnership will aim to put in place activities that support an independent and free press, ensure the safety of journalists – with particular focus on women journalists – promote access to information, and fight against impunity for crimes committed against media professionals.

Threats to press freedom are many and are to be found in all parts of the world. Today, the majority of murdered journalists die outside of conflict zones and impunity remains the rule. This new partnership with the Netherlands and the OHCHR will support press freedom.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

Freedom of the media is under assault, and we are failing to effectively stem the tide of threats to journalists, and particularly women journalists. This initiative by the Netherlands is a crucial step to addressing that gap. We need to act urgently to protect those who protect us, by courageously exposing corruption, confronting violence and abuse, and providing vital information for each of us. Impunity for those who imprison, intimidate and kill journalists must end.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

No journalist should have to fear intimidation, violence or persecution. Journalists should just be able to do their job. They are the oxygen of a free, inclusive and diverse society.

Foreign Minister Stef Blok.

Other highlights of the conference:

  • UNESCO and the International Center for Journalists, IFCJ, announced the findings of a global survey on online violence targeting women journalists. The announcement came at the close of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. The survey received more than 1,000 responses from all over the world: 73% of women respondents reported having experienced online violence in connection with their work, and 20% said they had been physically abused or attacked after having been subjected to online violence.
  • UNESCO and the International Association of Prosecutors developed the first international guidelines on investigating and prosecuting crimes against journalists with key recommendations for prosecutors. The guidelines will help raise magistrates’ awareness and skills regarding issues of freedom of expression and journalists’ safety, and they will contribute to the fight against impunity.
  • Launch of an International Forum of Legal Actors, which will bring together members of the range of legal professions to exchange points of view and share best practices in protecting freedom of expression at the global, regional and national levels. Established by UNESCO, the Asser Institute (Netherlands) and the nongovernmental organization, Free Press Unlimited, the forum, and its recommendations, will pave the way for two other forums of legal actors to be held in 2021 and 2022.

Minister Stef Blok, Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, lawyer Amal Clooney, Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for values and transparency, were among the participants at a high-level panel on the safety of journalists and the problem of impunity for crimes against media workers on 9 December. 

“I call on all governments to protect media workers, fight impunity, and strengthen press freedom,” declared UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the occasion of the conference. “Journalism without fear or favour is essential to get through the pandemic, and to build a future of peace and human rights for all.”

Other notable participants at the conference:

  • Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler (Philippines)
  • Matthew Caruana Galizia, Director, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation (Malta)
  • Elisabeth Bumiller, Washington Bureau Chief, the New York Times (USA)
  • Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Anchor, CNN (USA)
  • Carole Cadwalladr, Journalist and contributor to The Guardian (UK)
  • Joe Maalouf, Founder, Dignity NGO (Lebanon)
  • Nima Elbagir, Senior International Correspondent, CNN (Sudan)


Over 3,500 participants, 66% of them women, from 133 countries registered to take part in the online conference which was streamed from the World Forum of The Hauge, while thousands followed the event on social media platforms.


UNESCO Media contact: Clare O’Hagan