IPI Urges States to Urgently Recommit to Protecting Press Freedom, Journalists’ Safety on 75th Anniversary of UDHR

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FRANE MAROEVIĆ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of IPI

The Vienna, Austria-based International Press Institute (IPI) called on United Nations Member States on December 13, 2023, to take urgent and concrete action to protect freedom of the press and journalists’ safety and to recommit to upholding the fundamental human rights and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

In a “Special Statement” to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR, THE global network noted that the anniversary was coming “at an especially dark time for journalists around the world.”

The IPI said:  “An unprecedented number of journalists have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israeli airstrikes and ground raids into the territory over the last eight weeks, while Israeli strikes have also targeted journalists in southern Lebanon.  Nearly everywhere we look, journalism, and journalists, are at risk, as wars and authoritarian crackdowns spread, and as governments fail to uphold their obligations to protect journalists and to hold to account those responsible for attacks on the press.”

It also remarked that “as Russia’s war on Ukraine rages on, journalists continue to risk their lives on the frontlines, with at least 12 journalists killed since February 2022, while Russia ramps up its campaign to eliminate independent journalism inside its borders as well as in occupied Ukrainian territory.”

IPI reported that at least 20 journalists have been killed in Mexico in the last two years, making it the deadliest period on record in a country where journalist killings were horrifyingly routine.

It said:  “From Afghanistan to Iran to Myanmar, regimes are brutally targeting the press to silence criticism and preserve power. And journalists even in established democracies face increased harassment and pressure on their work.  This must change.”

IPI recalled that the UDHR was adopted on December 10, 1948, by the newly established UN in response to the barbarism and atrocities of war, noting that it established a bold set of fundamental human rights and freedoms to be universally respected and protected, both in times of conflict and in times of peace.

According to the IPI, “These principles grant all individuals the right to life, liberty, security, equality, as well as, in Article 19, freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to receive and share ideas and information, regardless of frontiers.  These principles also laid the foundation for a rich body of international human rights law and treaties that constitute today’s rules-based international order and that support open, democratic societies based on respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

Observing that 75 years later, the principles established by the UDHR are as relevant today as they ever were, it regretted that they are also under tremendous pressure, as conflicts rage and as the multilateral system is under tremendous strain.

IPI insisted that protecting these principles and ensuring they do not dissolve under pressure requires constant vigilance, which means that states must match words with deeds, and ensure that rhetorical commitments to press freedom are backed by concrete action.

It stressed that “States must stand up and protect the rights of journalists to report on any matters of public interest freely, safely, and without interference. Freedom of the press, access to information, and the ability to share opinions and ideas are essential for the protection and exercise of all other rights by helping shed light on discrimination, abuses of power, crime, and corruption, and by holding power holders to account when such abuses occur.”

IPI called on States, on this milestone anniversary, to recommit to protecting press freedom and the safety of journalists, which are essential to ensuring that the freedoms on which democratic societies are based can endure.