Building peace in the minds of men and women

Training security forces and the judiciary on freedom of expression


UNESCO is implementing projects focused on training security forces and the judiciary with the aim to provide them with practical and theoretical tools to carry out their mission of maintaining order and upholding the rule of law, respectively, while respecting human rights, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. These capacity-building projects fall under the framework of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.

The extent of the risks faced by journalists is reflected in the 1,200 killings recorded by UNESCO over the course of the past eleven years, from 2006 to 2020. Close to 9 out of 10 cases of these killings have been judicially resolved. To this, one needs to add the countless other violations endured by journalists, which include kidnappings, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, intimidation and harassment, both offline and online, and seizure or destruction of material. Women journalists are particularly impacted by threats and attacks, notably by those made online.

The importance of capacity-building projects for law enforcement actors and members of the judiciary was emphasized during the Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Strengthening the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in 2017 and its outcome document.

Protecting freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms also contributes to promoting the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particularly target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental rights.

Security forces

Since 2013, UNESCO and its partners have been implementing training programmes for security forces on freedom of expression. The standard format of these courses is a three-day course for officers, which includes one day in common with journalists. More than 8,500 security forces have been trained in various countries including Burkina Faso, Colombia (by FLIP), Côte d'Ivoire (and in 2020, in context of elections), the Gambia, Iraq (and in 2021, training for female police officers), Libya, Madagascar, Mali (with OHCHR), Palestine, Rwanda, Senegal (with OHCHR), Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania (with UNDP), Tunisia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

In Mali, the Peacekeeping School (Ecole de Maintien de la Paix-EMP), which trains officers from Mali and the sub region, officially adopted in 2017 the UNESCO curriculum on training security forces on freedom of expression and safety of journalists. In Tunisia, this training has become part in 2013 of the in-service curriculum of National Guard training institute.

The goal of these workshops is to train security forces to uphold citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and to better understand the role and function of journalists in democratic societies, and to establish professional working relationships between the two groups. Security forces can play an enabling role in situations of political and institutional change toward democratic societies, post-conflict situations as well as countries experiencing high levels of violence or instability.

The training, which is based on UNESCO’s manual “Freedom of Expression and Public Order” (available in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, English and French), is specifically focusing on developing dialogues and reconciling the media and security forces. The manual offers a comprehensive program for training of security forces on freedom of expression, presenting the international framework regarding freedom of expression, examples of standards operating procedures and good practices, in particular in the fields of promoting transparency, facilitating relations between security forces and the media, and strengthening safety of journalists.


Since 2013, UNESCO and its partners trained 23,000 judges, judicial actors and civil society representatives on freedom of expression, public access to information and safety of journalists. The training programme has also been implemented through a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), on-the-ground trainings, workshops and seminars for Supreme Court judges, and judicial professionals in Latin America, Africa and the Arab region. Since 2021, the Judges initiative has been expanded to judicial actors from around the word with a global MOOC on international standards on freedom of expression and safety of journalists.

These training seminars aim to improve freedom of expression, public access to information and safety of journalists by reinforcing the capacities of judges and other actors of judicial systems on these issues. The courses provide judicial actors with an overview of the international and regional legal framework on freedom of expression, access to information, safety of journalists as well as the news challenges of the Internet.

Through a better understanding and knowledge of international and regional standards of freedom of expression and safety of journalists, judges and other members of the judiciary can better align their decisions with the international and regional standards and good practices on these issues.