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Journalists' safety back on top of world community's agenda, says IFJ

UPDATE: IFJ takes campaign for journalists' safety to UN General Assembly with call to end impunity (IFJ, 8 September 2012)

(IFJ/IFEX) - 24 May 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) made a crucial contribution to a debate on safety of journalists at the 12th Doha Forum which closed yesterday.

Bringing together over 600 international participants, including political leaders, decisions makers, academics, media figures as well as representatives of civil society and regional and international organisations, the Forum held a two-day debate focussing on the Arab Spring and the global financial and economic crisis.

One of its major sessions, led by IFJ president Jim Boumelha and the General Secretary of the National Union of the Philippines, Nestor Burgos Jr, built on the momentum created last January by an international conference for the protection of journalists in dangerous situation also held in Doha.

“The Forum presented the IFJ with an important opportunity to highlight before an audience of world agencies and governments the vital issues concerning safety of journalists and the urgency for strengthening national laws to end impunity,” said Boumelha.

Chaired by Dr Ali Bin Smaikh Al-Marry, Chair of the Qatar National Human Rights Committee, the participants reviewed the recommendations made by the last international conference and plans to put safety on the agenda of the UN General Assembly and highlight the obligation of states to provide more coherent and practical measures to combat targeted violence and to eradicate impunity.

Nestor Burgos Jr gave a moving account of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre where 33 journalists were murdered and its impact on journalists in the Philippines. He also provided an update on the trials of the suspects in the massacre and on the campaign waged by the families of killed journalists.

“The Doha Forum's workshop on the recommendations of the International Conference on the Protection of Journalists is a welcome and significant step in further calling international attention to and action on the unabated murders of media workers in many parts of the world including in the Philippines,” he said.

The recommendations issued by the last Doha conference, organised by the Qatari National Committee for Human Rights, have become a key part of the global campaign to press governments on their responsibility to protect journalists. They emphasise the need to vigorously enforce the existing legal instruments, binding national authorities to prevent and punish violence against journalists and request the UN to develop new strategies to promote states' compliance with their obligations as well as the creation of a special unit in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to follow up media cases. They call for the right of their families to receive compensation as well as the need for donors to link aid assistance to countries' record on media protection. They further request news organisations to provide adequate safety training and all appropriate supports, including protective equipment and trauma counsel to their staff.

“These renewed activities have put media protection back on the top agenda of world institutions and the IFJ is now a key player in the global campaign aimed at the UN and its agencies," added Boumelha.

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