Journalists Groups Endorse IFJ’s Proposed Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists

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

Leaders of journalists unions representing 600,000 media workers across the world have endorsed the International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) proposed International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals at a meeting in Tunisia.

 If adopted by the UN, the ground breaking convention will, for the first time, establish binding standards which will create safeguards specifically for journalists and media workers in the face of a tide of violence and threats.

 The IFJ believes strongly that a new binding international instrument dedicated to the safety of journalists, including a specific enforcement mechanism, would improve the effectiveness of the international response.

The move to push for the UN to adopt the convention follows a recent trend towards recognising that media workers face a different situation and may require a category-specific solution.

The UN Security Council Resolution 2222 recognises that the work of media professionals “puts them at specific risk of intimidation, harassment and violence in situations of armed conflict”. Additionally, the Council of Europe guidelines for the protection of journalism acknowledge an increase in attacks against journalists “because of their investigative work, opinions and reporting”.

The new instrument would provide a helpful codification of all applicable rules in one document by bringing together both human rights and humanitarian law provisions. The proposed convention includes: the obligation to protect journalists against attacks on their lives, 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; 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.

Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary of IFJ said the “A new international instrument dedicated to the safety of journalists would make an important statement. It would acknowledge their distinctiveness, stemming from the risks to which they are routinely exposed and the value of journalistic work to society. It 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.”

Anthony added that “Such a momentous initiative would make the safety of journalists and everyone’s right to information a clear priority for the international community.”

IFJ President, Philippe Leruth noted that the convention is an important step towards achieving the accountability of Governments before the UN General Assembly saying it will force them to “fulfil their obligations by developing effective judicial mechanisms to bring journalists´ attackers to justice,” adding that 58 journalists have been killed this year.

The International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals can be downloaded from here.