The International Media Support (IMS) in Copenhagen, Denmark, has issued a new report based on a study it conducted on the safety of journalists in seven countries where environments of conflict and instability challenge the ability of journalists to produce good, in-depth reporting.
The report title “Defending Journalism” is aimed at providing a mapping and greater understanding of what works and what does not work when it comes to addressing the safety of journalists.
The study, which was carried out in the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Nepal, Colombia and Afghanistan, revealed that approximately 640 journalists have lost their lives in the last decade and that out of this number, over 90 per cent took place in countries with conflict or authoritarian regimes.
The seven countries were selected for analysis because they showcase a varied range of responses to improving the safety of journalists.
Mr. Jesper Højberg, the Executive Director of IMS, said “Our study shows that the most effective responses to the safety of journalists are those born and led by a broad coalition of stakeholders that includes media, civil society, authorities where possible and international organisations,”
The study reveals that Afghanistan and Colombia have succeeded in establishing broad, locally anchored coalitions of government authorities, media and civil society organisations around so-called national “safety mechanisms”, a series of interlinked activities that together address the safety of journalists.
These mechanisms aim to provide journalists in distress with a “package” of assistance depending on their immediate needs such as emergency support including relocation, safe houses, legal advice, safety training workshops, conflict sensitive journalism training and advocacy campaigns against press freedom violations and for improved legislation.
The report stresses that in countries where the police and government are amongst the perpetrators, media and press freedom organisations must think innovatively.
Examples of good practices were noted in Bagdad in Iraq, where the media and security forces have signed an agreement “regulating” their relationship following a series of dialogues; in the Philippines, where press freedom advocates have teamed up with the Catholic Church to shelter journalists under threat; and in Pakistan, where six press clubs across the country work together to provide safety hubs for journalists in need of help.
One of the weaknesses of these country-wide mechanisms, as also pointed out in the study, is the fact that the mechanisms are largely dependent on foreign funding to function.
In addition, a lack of coordination and agreed joint priorities amongst international media development organisations and amongst local media development actors in some of the countries surveyed, has in some instances weakened the overall impact of the efforts made to improve safety, according to the report.
Mr. Højberg said: “All media stakeholders from government to media, police authorities and civil society must take responsibility and work together to ensure the media’s ability to report freely, safely and accurately without fear of retribution,”
According to him, “This is why the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted by UN member states in 2012 is an important instrument to connect local efforts on the safety of journalists to international ongoing discussions on the issue. The ability of journalists to safely carry out their role as society’s watchdog is an issue that concerns us all.”
The report was launched in Denmark at IMS’ Closing Spaces debate seminar on November 16, which IMS hosted along with the Danish National Commission for UNESCO.