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OHCHR and the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity

About safety of journalists and human rights

Freedom of the media is essential to enable democratic, free and participative societies. Journalists and the media are crucial to ensure transparency and accountability for public and governmental authorities. Yet media freedom and the safety of journalists are under threat around the globe.

In recent years, OHCHR has observed a decline of media freedom in all regions. Various factors demonstrate this decline, including persisting attacks on journalists, on-line and offline, particularly of women journalists; increasing detention of journalists; the use of defamation laws and laws to curb on-line expression; the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation Laws (SLAPPS) against journalists; and the targeting of journalists by surveillance technologies.

OHCHR's work on safety of journalists

OHCHR is mandated to promote and protect the effective enjoyment by all of all human rights. This includes the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, and other rights of journalists and media workers. OHCHR's work on these issues includes the following:

  • Implementing General Assembly and Human Rights Council mandates on the safety of journalists;
  • Implementing, jointly with the UNESCO and via a wide consultation process, the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, as well as co-chairing with UNESCO the United Nations Network of Focal Points on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity;
  • Monitoring and reporting on violations against journalists;
  • Raising awareness, including through public statements and letters, on individual cases and on media clampdowns;
  • Engaging with Member States, international and regional organizations and civil society organizations on media freedom and safety of journalists;
  • Organizing and participating in conferences, roundtables and events related to media freedom and safety of journalists, including the World Press Freedom Day and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists;
  • Training journalists, journalists’ associations, civil society organizations, government officials, law practitioners, and security forces on international standards applicable to media freedom and the safety of journalists;
  • Providing technical advice, including through OHCHR country and regional presences, on setting up and operating specific protection mechanisms for journalists;
  • Engaging with relevant Human Rights Council special procedure mandates and human rights treaty bodies on media freedom and the safety of journalists;
  • Reporting under SDG indicator 16.10.1 as custodian agency.

Latest reports


A/HRC/55/39: Summary report of the expert seminar on legal and economic threats to the safety of journalists (2023) 


A/HRC/54/49: Summary report of the panel discussion on digital, media and information literacy (2023)


A/78/270: Report of the Secretary-General on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity (2023)


OHCHR country report on the state of press freedom in Cambodia (2022)


A/HRC/49/40: Report on the safety of journalists (2022)


A/76/285: Report on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity (2021)


Report from Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Strengthening the Implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity (2017)


See all

Resources


The impact of SLAPPs on human rights and how to respond


Briefer on National Frameworks for the Safety of Journalists


Briefer on impact of counter-terrorism and criminal laws on media freedom and safety of journalists


Briefer on self-protection measures to respond to threats to journalists


Briefer on How international human rights standards and mechanisms help protect journalists


Briefer: Human rights and elections for journalists


Briefer on Human Rights in the Context of Protests for Journalists


Briefer: Global Drive for Media Freedom, Access to Information and the Safety of Journalists


#JournalistsToo – Women Journalists Speak Out: 11 stories written by female journalists from all over the world


Outcome Document: Strengthening the Implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity