This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 29 September 2016.
The IFJ has welcomed a call by the United Nations to tackle impunity for crimes against media workers, as part of a wide-ranging motion promoting the safety of journalists, adopted by the Human Rights Council (HCR) in Geneva today.
The 5-page motion “condemns all attacks and violence against journalists” and recognises media freedom as a cornerstone of democratic societies. It also expresses deep concern over all human rights violations against journalists which undermine freedom of expression and lead to self-censorship or deters journalists from continuing their work.
In particular the motion, adopted at the 33rd Session of the HCR, calls for action by states to:
• Immediately and unconditionally release all journalists arbitrarily arrested or arbitrarily detained
• Create and maintain, in practice and in law, a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference
• Develop and implement strategies for combating impunity for attacks and violence against journalists
• More effectively implement a legal framework for the protection of journalists
• Pay particular attention to ensuring the safety of journalists at election times
• Ensure laws designed to combat terrorism do not undermine the rights of journalists
• Protect in law and practice the confidentiality of journalists' sources and not interfere in journalists' use of encryption and anonymity tools
The UN also called on media companies to ensure they provided adequate safety, risk awareness, digital security and self-protection training together with protective equipment and insurance.
We welcome the overwhelming recognition of the vital role that journalists play in holding power to account and the need for action to ensure their safety. But words alone are not enough. This motion must be followed up with action...
IFJ President Philippe Leruth
The IFJ welcomed the motion but warned that the key was in how it is implemented. It expressed its concern that in too many cases mechanisms to enforce the UN's calls were weak, limited or non-existent and called on media freedom supporters to “maintain the pressure for action”.
IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: “We welcome the overwhelming recognition of the vital role that journalists play in holding power to account and the need for action to ensure their safety. But words alone are not enough. This motion must be followed up with action to stop thousands of journalists being killed, attacked and prevented from doing their work and their attackers avoiding being brought before justice and to receive punishment for their crimes”.
The full text of the motion is available here.