The office of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decided to establish a direct and continuing channel of communication with a coalition of press freedom organizations on journalism safety. Guterres made this decision following a February 2017 meeting with Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières – RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), on behalf of the #ProtectJournalists coalition. The Secretary-General’s decision comes at a particularly dangerous period for journalists in many countries.
RSF, CPJ, and WAN-IFRA have been campaigning through the #ProtectJournalists campaign for the creation of a new position in the UN in order to implement international law regarding journalists’ safety. The #ProtectJournalists coalition has been in a dialogue with the Secretary-General’s senior staff to ensure that this direct communication channel will allow mobilization at the highest levels of the UN system to respond to emergency cases, and to ensure better coordination among the UN agencies, funds, and programs, as recommended by the UN Plan of Action.
“Secretary-General Guterres told us that he wanted to take immediate action to improve the safety of journalists on the ground and that his closest team will work towards this goal. In a second time, he will continue to consider our initial recommendation to appoint a UN Special Representative for the safety of journalists supported by a worldwide coalition of NGOs, media outlets, journalists and prominent public figures,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “We deeply appreciate his commitment on this topic, and the decision he has already taken. The world’s major problems, from environmental issues to extremist violence, cannot be resolved without the work of journalists.”
“At a time of unprecedented threats to journalists around the world, we are grateful for the commitments made by the Secretary General to continue to speak out about the importance of the press around the world and to open a permanent channel of communication around emergency cases,” said Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
RSF and members of the #ProtectJournalists coalition will put in place a process to gather and relay emergency cases directly to the UN Secretariat. In the coming weeks, RSF will chair a consultation including international and local press freedom organizations to consider the best process for referring cases, so that cases can be referred to the Secretary-General as soon as possible.
Five hundred and eighty journalists and media assistants have been killed worldwide since the adoption of the UN Plan of Action in 2012, according to RSF research. Impunity remains the norm, with full justice in only three percent of journalist murders in the past decade, according to CPJ analysis.