Newsletter - Issue 26 (May/June 2017)

Greetings Colleagues,
As part of the information sharing mechanism under the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, we are issuing this newsletter every two months. Through this newsletter, we share with you information on the implementation of the UN Plan of Action. It includes development from the first-phase countries (Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Sudan), various ongoing and upcoming initiatives that could contribute to achieving the objectives set out in the UN Plan of Action. We invite you to submit relevant information concerning your initiative that would contribute to the UN Plan.

© UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Global multistakeholder consultation on strengthening UN Plan of Action on 29 June 2017

Key stakeholders of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity are gathering in Geneva on 29 June 2017 to take stock of the achievements, challenges and to consider the way forward. Co-organized by UNESCO and OHCHR, the one-day event is held in the context of the first five years of its implementation. Participants will share best practices and elaborate on recommendations to assist all key actors in their endeavors to protect journalists and end impunity. Read more.


Jakarta Declaration highlights risks faced by journalists, Internet challenges and rise of fake news

Sixteen points in the recent Jakarta Declaration on press freedom deal with safety of journalists – a topic that was recently underlined by the brutal killings of journalists in Mexico and Afghanistan. It calls on all stakeholders to collaborate in tackling impunity and reinforcing safety of journalists. Adopted by 1500 participants at the global celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Jakarta, Indonesia (1-4 May 2017), the Declaration is a milestone text addressing other major challenges besides journalists’ safety, namely fake news and Internet issues. Read more.


Fact-based journalism celebrated at World Press Freedom Day conference in Jakarta

An unprecedented 1,500 participants celebrated World Press Freedom Day 2017 and the right to an independent, pluralistic and free press from 1 to 4 May in Jakarta, Indonesia. Organized by UNESCO, the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Press Council, the event highlighted media's role in advancing peaceful, just, and inclusive societies. The safety of journalists was further examined in two parallel sessions during the conference, and highlighted as a major challenge in the Jakarta Declaration, that was adopted at the close of the conference. Read more.


Research Conference on Safety of Journalists

In concurrence with the main celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2017, the second edition of the Academic Conference on the Safety of Journalists took place from 3 to 4 May in Jakarta, Indonesia. In five sessions, researchers from all across the globe shared insights on various aspects of media safety and impunity. It also served to launch two new publications: The Assault on Journalism, which offers a selection of articles covering attacks on media from a multitude of angles and the new UNESCO study Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age. Read more.

© Nordicom/UNESCO/HKBU

New study highlights research on safety of journalists worldwide

Entitled The Assault on Journalism: Building Knowledge to Protect Freedom of Expression, the new study is the outcome document of the 2016 Academic Conference on the Safety of Journalists, held in Helsinki, Finland alongside World Press Freedom Day 2016. It includes empirical and theoretical articles by nearly 50 international researchers, covering different perspectives on the current state of media safety. It was launched by editors Ulla Carlsson and Reeta Pöyhtäri on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2017 and can be consulted here. Read more.


UNESCO study examines the protection of journalistic sources in the digital age

After three years of research, the finalized UNESCO study Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age was officially released as part of the Organization's Internet Freedom Series. Authored by Julie Posetti, the study examines the new developments that impacted the confidentiality of journalists’ sources between 2007 and 2015, including digital surveillance, data retention practices, device seizures and national security and anti-terrorism laws. The publication can be consulted here. Read more.


Safety of journalists taught at Lebanese universities

On 16 May, a new media safety curriculum was launched in Beirut, Lebanon aimed at journalism students enrolled in universities throughout the country. The comprehensive university course provides insight into a wide range of themes, ranging from the challenges on the terrain to International Law. The finalized curriculum is the result of a collaboration between UNESCO, the International Federation of Journalists and the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education and is the first such specialized curriculum in the region. Read more.


Impunity and media safety as main topics on World Press Freedom Day 2017 in Iraq

On 3 May 2017, the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate, the International Federation of Journalists and Free Press Unlimited, organized an event focusing on the safety of journalists in Iraq and impunity for crimes against the media. Iraqi media face multiple challenges in carrying out their job, having to operate in extremely volatile environments and where the number of threats and attacks against them remain one of the highest in the world. The event was attended by multiple stakeholders who discussed efforts to ameliorate the current situation. Read more.


Safety of journalists highlighted on World Press Freedom Day in South Sudan

During the national celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2017 in Juba, South Sudan, the safety of journalists was one of the main topics that were covered. The key findings of the national survey Supporting Safety of Journalists in South Sudan, based on UNESCO's Journalists' Safety Indicators (JSI), were presented and demonstrated a protective legal environment for freedom of expression within the country. However, censorship and the lack of protection of media professionals remain issues that hamper the South Sudanese media environment. Read more.


Rwanda National Police and the media fraternity vow to strengthen partnership in safety of journalists and crimes prevention

During a one-day dialogue forum on 3 April 2017 in Kigali, Rwanda, local stakeholders addressed the safety of journalists and the creation of a national safety mechanism for journalists. Organized by the Rwanda Media Commission, the Rwanda National Police and UNESCO, the forum was attended by different stakeholders and resulted in the adoption of 12 resolutions reinforcing media safety within the country. Over the course of April-May 2017, six workshops are being held to encourage dialogue between the media and law enforcement. Read more.


Security forces in Senegal trained on freedom of expression, safety of journalists, and women’s rights

From 20 to 25 March 2017, Senegalese security forces participated in two three-day trainings in Dakar, Senegal. The objectives of the training sessions were two-fold: improving the capacities of local law enforcement officers to guarantee freedom of expression and the safety of journalists as well as facilitating dialogue and cooperation between them, media professionals and defenders of women's rights. Over the course of six days, 40 policemen were joined by 10 journalists and women's rights defenders to enhance their working relationship. Read more.


UNESCO supports consolidation of peace in Madagascar through dialogue among journalists and the defense and security forces

A second dialogue session was organized between the media and security forces in Antananarivo, Madagascar on 6 April 2017 to improve the relationship between the two key stakeholders in ensuring media safety. Following up on a first similar initiative from December 2016, the round table saw the participation of the three national security ministries and members of the Malagasy journalists' community. Another outcome of the meeting was the drafting of a communication guide, which would facilitate the exchange of information and further collaboration. Read more.


Launch of cycle of training sessions aimed at women journalists in Sudan

The first safety training of women journalists in Khartoum, Sudan on 26 February 2017 marked the start of a cycle of safety courses throughout the country, with an aim to instruct 100 female media professionals on how to operate and report in a safe manner. The first training consisted of four days and was organized by the Sudanese Journalists Union and UNESCO. Around 20 journalists and four trainers participated, the latter of which will continue to train other women journalists in the following weeks. Read more.


Safety Training for Women Journalists in Wad Madani, Sudan

The first follow-up training session aimed at Sudanese women reporters was held in Wad Madani, a city south of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. From 17 to 20 April 2017, trainers focused on both physical and digital safety for journalists and also introduced the Safety Guide for Journalists: A handbook for reporters in high-risk environments, a joint UNESCO/Reporters Without Borders publication. The session was organized by the Sudanese Journalists Union (SJU) and was attended by 24 women journalists. Read more.


Record number of more than 2000 applicants will start Safety of Journalists MOOC

The third edition of the massive open online course (MOOC) International Legal Framework for Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and the Safety of Journalists received a record number of 2200 accepted applications from 19 countries. Aimed at Ibero-American judicial actors, the MOOC offers in-depth case studies and information on international standards to promote and defend freedom of expression, right to information, and journalists' safety. It will take place from 8 May to 18 June 2017. Read more.


Mechanism within Tunisian journalists union to monitor attacks against journalists supported by UNESCO

A new monitoring mechanism to track attacks against journalists was launched on 21 March in Tunisia. Coordinated by the National Union of Tunisian journalists (SNJT), the Monitoring and Documentation Unit on Attacks against Journalists is supported by UNESCO and the Tunisia Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The new unit is a direct outcome of a series of training sessions held in Tunisia during 2016 and will consist of four dedicated experts. Read more.


UNESCO Curriculum on Freedom of Expression and Public Order adopted by Peacekeeping School and Ministry of Security and Civil Protection in Mali

During a training of trainers from 28 to 30 March 2017 in Bamako, Mali, 26 representatives from the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection and the Peacekeeping School, as well as media professionals, were instructed on how to train Malian security forces to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information as well as ensure the safety of journalists within the country. The three-day training followed upon four previous trainings of local security forces held in June and November 2016 and will ensure similar future initiatives. Read more.


Mexican president pledges to prioritize journalist safety and combat impunity

In a meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 4 May in Mexico City, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto committed to prioritize the safety of journalists and countering impunity for the remainder of his presidential term, which is set to end next year. In addition, he guaranteed a more thorough follow up of investigations into attacks on the press and the killings of journalists as well as pledged to provide extra funding for the federal protection mechanism that has been in place since November 2012. Read more.

© Reuters/Edgard Garrido

State of media safety in Mexico assessed by CPJ in new report

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published on World Press Freedom Day (3 May) an in-depth special report on the unsafe media environment in Mexico, entitled No Excuse: Mexico must break cycle of impunity in journalists' murders. The international press freedom organization highlights the vicious cycle of violence and impunity the Mexican fourth is currently facing. The publication focuses on three cases from 2014-2016 and provides recommendations to different stakeholders in order to alleviate the current situation. Read more.


Indian state of Maharashtra passes landmark journalists' protection law

The legislative bodies of the Indian state of Maharashtra passed on 7 April 2017 a law that protects the media from any violent attacks or destruction of property and equipment. The Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017 makes any attempt of violence aimed towards the media a punishable offense that can lead to imprisonment, fines and compensation fees towards the victim. Maharashtra is one of the largest states within India and its new law is the first of its kind. Read more.


IFJ concludes safety training in Yemen

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), in cooperation with its partner the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS), organized a two-day safety course in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, for journalists hailing from the Aden Governorate. At the end of the training, Yassin El Masoudi of YJS stressed the importance of these training sessions given the circumstances journalists have to operate in within the country. The training forms part of a series of courses that IFJ has implemented in Yemen since 2016.


New models for combatting impunity in Latin America further examined

On 23 March, a round table in Washington, USA, brought together several institutions based in Latin America to share their experiences in combatting impunity. Representatives from the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for Ayot-zinapa (GIEI) in Mexico, and the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) discussed the role of International Law in the fight against impunity. The video recording is available here (in Spanish only).


RSF provides key recommendations to journalists for their online safety

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a checklist of key recommendations for journalists to take into account when carrying out their job online. Digital attacks, identity theft and online tracking have become a reality that greatly affects the work of media professionals and their confidential communication with sources. The recommendations include concrete measures for both professional and non-professional journalists, and range from password policy to communications and data encryption for both desktops and smartphones. The full list is available here.


24 Syrian journalists trained in Damascus

Together with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and in collaboration with the Syrian Ministry of Information and the Syrian National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO organized a training session dedicated to safety for 24 Syrian journalists in Damascus, Syria. The training took place from 27 to 29 March and covered a wide range of topics, including security in the field, ballistic protection, and first aid. The aim was to better equip the participants to face the risks when covering dangerous situations, such as armed conflict or humanitarian crisis. Read more.


IFJ runs safety training for Syrian journalists in Turkey

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) organized its first three-day safety training for Syrian journalists in Turkey. The training took place in Gaziantep from 17 to 19 April 2017 and brought together a group of twenty journalists, camera operators and photographers from surrounding municipalities. Organized in cooperation with the Syrian Journalists Association (SJA), the course included practical advice to reduce risk as well as overall awareness training about the dangers of covering a conflict zone. Read more.

© SKeyes

Journalists' safety and emergency assistance in Syria closely examined

From 3 to 5 April in Beirut, Lebanon, the Syria Response Group came together with other regional and international organizations that support Syrian media to discuss the safety concerns affecting journalists. The meeting was organized by the SKeyes foundation, a member of the Global Forum for Media Development, and provided a welcome opportunity to assess the situation in-depth as well as to meet with the donor community. One of the main recommendations of the gathering was the need to enhance capacities for political and security needs and risk analysis.

© The Commonwealth of Nations

Commonwealth leader pledges support for UN Plan on journalists’ safety

In her address to the conference The Commonwealth and Challenges to Media Freedom on 4 April in London, UK, Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, commended the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity as a valuable framework under which the Commonwealth can work together to address media freedom. She added that States need to investigate attacks on journalists promptly and impartially as to ensure scrutiny, provide remedy, and instill confidence in public institutions. Read more.


Encryption and safety of journalists in the digital age advocated at RightsCon 2017 in Brussels

Encryption is important for the work of journalists, and for citizens more broadly. This was the gist of a UNESCO panel at held at RightsCon in Brussels, Belgium on 30 March, which used the UNESCO publication Human Rights and encryption (2016) to guide the discussion. Six panelists, including Frank La Rue, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information and Sylvia Grundmann, Head of Media and Internet Division at Council of Europe, debated on how encryption could help protect privacy and advance free expression online. Read more.




Regional Forum on Safety of Journalists to be held end of July in Honduras

UNESCO and the Federation of University Faculties of Public Communication in Latin America (FELAFACS) will be organizing a forum to examine how the journalism curricula in Central America could be improved to address issues related to safety of journalists as well as better prepare aspiring journalism students to manage the security challenges they could face in the region. The forum is set to take place from 27 to 29 July in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. More information will be made available soon.