IFJ Urges Governments to Endorse Proposal on Safety of Journalists, Other Media Professionals

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Philippe Leruth, President, IFJ
Philippe Leruth, President, IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has issued a call on governments around the world to endorse a proposal for a convention on the safety of journalists and other media professionals.

The call was made on May 2, 2018 in Brussels, during the occasion of the 25th World Press Freedom Day Anniversary.

Expressing its concern towards the safety of journalists, IFJ noted that the recent spike in violence targeting journalists is a stark reminder that there can be no press freedom when journalists live and work in fear.

According to IFJ, 32 journalists and media staff were killed so far in 2018, with a chilling ratio of two journalists killed every single week. The IFJ believes that the safety crisis in media calls for a global action against impunity for crimes against journalists and urges governments to defend press freedom by endorsing the IFJ’s proposal for an International Convention on the safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals.

The IFJ’s annual survey among its affiliates on the violations of journalists’ rights and freedoms to mark 2018 World Press Freedom Day showed a high number of cases where journalists have been intimidated, attacked, jailed and killed while impunity for such crimes remains at over 90%.

Several affiliates’ reports describe an increase in violence against journalists across the globe since May 3, 2017.
In Afghanistan, 10 journalists were killed on Monday 30th April in what is seen as the deadliest day for journalists in a decade in the country.

In Greece, extreme-right political party, Golden Dawn Party continues its intimidation campaign against the press. JUADN, an IFJ affiliate, reported several cases of violence and intimidations targeting journalists and media organisations. Two of them, one involving sports editor Aris Asvestas and the other targeting Newspaper Kathimerini offices in Thessaloniki were also reported by the IFJ/EFJ to the Council of Europe platform for the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

In Peru, at least 92 attacks against journalists have been registered by the Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú (ANP). For the first time in two decades, threats of litigation have become the most used form of intimidation, overtaking physical violence. None of these cases has been investigated, the association reports.

In Somalia, 4 journalists were killed in 2017. The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) reported 22 journalists arrested and 8 physically assaulted. Two others were handed 2-year jail terms in 2018 after being convicted of “spreading propaganda against the nation”. The union deplores the record levels of impunity that contribute to attacks against the press in the country.

As a result of the continued attacks on journalists and other media professions, IFJ emphasized the urgent need for a mechanism which provides accountability and its proposed International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals offers a way forward.

The proposed Convention would, for the first time, establish binding standards creating safeguards specifically for journalists and media workers. It would provide a codification of all applicable rules in one instrument, bringing together both human rights and humanitarian law provisions. It would include the obligation to protect journalists against attacks on their life, arbitrary arrest, violence and intimidation campaigns, the obligation to protect against forced disappearances and kidnapping (by state agents or private actors), the obligation to carry out effective investigations into alleged interferences and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Furthermore, the Convention would intensify international scrutiny over attacks against journalists as well as assisting national authorities in understanding their international obligations, currently fragmented in several treaty provisions and case law and bring perpetrators to justice; in the context of armed conflict, the obligation to treat media workers and facilities as civilians (and hence illegitimate targets) and to conduct military operations with due diligence.

IFJ’s President Philippe Leruth, said in the statement “We cannot celebrate World Press Freedom Day without calling on world governments to take their responsibility to guaranty the safety of our colleagues. Press freedom is about journalists being able to work free of fear. And it is about the right of the public to be informed by an independent and free media. The International convention would, for the first time, establish binding standards that would support our colleagues’ safety in the course of their duty.”

Anthony Bellanger, IFJ’s General Secretary, while speaking on the need to adopt the International convention stated that “With the devastating attack against our colleagues in Afghanistan on Monday, it is 32 journalists who lost their lives in the course of their duties this year, that is two journalists killed every week”. He added that “These killings must not remain unpunished. It is time to acknowledge that journalists are exposed to specific risks due to their profession and to provide them with the necessary protection. The international convention will do that. We urge UN member states to adopt it without delay and take a concrete commitment towards press freedom”.