Landmark initiative to promote media freedom announced


A woman reporter runs with a rebel fighter to avoid snipers at the frontline against the Islamic State fighters in Aleppo's northern countryside October 10, 2014. REUTERS/Jalal Al-MamoUN Human Rights and UNESCO have joined forces with the Netherlands in a ground-breaking two-year initiative to promote press freedom and the safety of journalists worldwide.

On 10 December, Human Rights Day, the Dutch Foreign Minister, Stef Blok, announced at the 2020 World Press Freedom Conference   that the Netherlands have earmarked seven million euros for a joint international campaign with both UN organizations.

The partnership will aim to put in place activities that foster an independent and free press and promote access to information. The partners action will also focus on the safety of journalists – paying particular attention to women journalists –, and on ending impunity for violations committed against media professionals.

Since 2019, 108 journalists were killed, as per the UNESCO Observatory on Killed Journalists. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported the deaths of 2658 journalists and media workers around the world in the last 30 years. Also according to the IFJ, over those decades, half of these killings happened in countries which suffered from war, corruption or a ruinous breakdown in the rule of law.

No journalist should be criminalized or harassed because of their reporting. Yet, in 2018, Committee to Protect Journalists counted 254 detained journalists. By December 2019, Reporters without Borders counted 389 journalists in prison. Under COVID-19 measures, the International Press Institute reports to date 185 arrests or charges.

“Today, freedom of the media is under assault, and we are failing to effectively stem the tide of threats to journalists, and particularly women journalists,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

“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,” she added.

For Minster Blok, “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.”

UNESCO’s Director General, Audrey Azoulay, also welcomed the partnership, pointing out that “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.”

11 December 2020

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