PARIS/VIENNA, 7 November – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – In the first nine months of 2012 UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova condemned 95 killings of journalists, media workers and bloggers, a dramatic increase compared to previous years. The 2nd UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity will be held in Vienna (Austria) on 22 and 23 November as part of international efforts to stem this violence, which undermines the basic human right of freedom of expression in many parts of the world and restricts citizens’ ability to get the full range of independent information to which they are entitled.
The UN organizations taking part in the meeting will be able to consult invited international and regional institutions, national governments, professional organizations and NGOs. They will then define the implementation strategy for the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity for the next two years.
This strategy will include international, regional and national activities. Four countries have been selected for the first phase of implementation: Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Sudan. Preparations are also underway to extend the implementation of the Plan of Action to Latin America, the region most severely affected by attacks against journalists, media workers and social media producers.
Journalists must enjoy reasonable levels of personal safety if they are to carry out their work and realize the right of all citizens to receive reliable information. States and societies are responsible for creating and maintaining the conditions required to preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and combating the impunity all too often enjoyed by perpetrators of attacks against journalists.
Freedom of expression, including the right to receive and express opinions and impart information, is essential in building just and participatory democratic societies. Nevertheless, the number of journalists killed in the line of duty has been increasing and now totals more than 600 in the last ten years. UNESCO’s statements on these killings can be found in a dedicated web page, UNESCO condemns the killing of journalists. But journalists and media workers are also the subject of other forms of harassment and intimidation-such as illegal arrest and sexual attacks on female journalists-which limit their ability to work freely and carry out their professional duties.
The Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists was convened by the Director-General of UNESCO, the UN Organization responsible for media freedom. The event is co-hosted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is sponsored by the Austrian Government. The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity represents the outcome of a process that began in 2010 at the request of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). Consequently, the first UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity took place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 13-14 September 2011.
The first part of the Vienna meeting, on the morning of 22 November will be open to the press. This will include a press conference with Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI); Jānis Kārkliņš, UNESCO Assistant Director-General in charge of the Communication and Information Sector (9 to 10 a.m. at, Presseclub Concordia, Bankgasse 8, 1010 Vienna)
The public event will also include a Round-table organized by the International Press Institute (IPI) with the participation of Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Dunja Mijatović, Representative on Freedom of the Media, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); Guy Berger, Director, Divison of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO; Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, Editor-in-Chief, Der Standard, Austria and Member of the IPI Executive Board and Karl Bostic, former Chief, NBC News, Baghdad Office. Reporters without Borders will also moderate a discussion with Swedish journalists recently freed in Ethiopia, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson.