Over 1660 Prosecutors, Other Professionals from 90 Countries Trained on Investigating and Prosecuting Crimes against Journalists, says UNESCO

Ms Audrey Azoulay

Over 1,660 prosecutors, legal practitioners and other professionals from more than 90 countries worldwide attended an online training aimed at stimulating an international dialogue among prosecutors and legal professionals about freedom of expression and the effective prosecution of crimes against media workers, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Investigating and Prosecuting Crimes against Journalists and Promoting Freedom of Expression, which took place from February 27 to March 24, 2023, was organized by UNESCO and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP).

The MOOC, attended by legal practitioners, journalists, university professors and students, was designed to strengthen the participants’ abilities regarding international and regional standards on freedom of expression.

It highlighted the crucial role of prosecutors in effectively investigating and prosecuting crimes against media professionals and provided a platform for enhanced regional and international cooperation among prosecutors and legal practitioners for ending impunity for crimes against journalists.

The course also enabled the participants to gain a deeper understanding of national and regional strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats in the context of protecting journalists and their sources, victims, and witnesses.

Sabin Ouellet, former Chief-Prosecutor from Canada, and Simon Clements, former Chief Crown Prosecutor from the United Kingdom, led the course.

The course was based on the UNESCO-IAP’s Guidelines for Prosecutors on Cases of Crimes Against Journalists, which is available in 20 languages.

The guidelines offered participants valuable insights on the proper conduct or supervision of investigations, the identification of stages and determination for proceedings in cases of crimes against journalists, and the proposal of a series of elements to consider when investigating and prosecuting such cases.

The MOOC also included interventions from high-level experts in the field of human rights and freedom of expression, such as Chile Eoboe-Osiji, former ICC Judge and Professor; Marcela Turati, Investigative Journalist and Co-founder of Quinto Elemento Lab; Simon Walker, Chief of the Rule of Law and Democracy Section from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Paul Coppin, Deputy Director and Head of the Legal Desk from Reporters Without Borders; and Barbara Nascimento, State Prosecutor from Rio de Janeiro.

Since 2020, UNESCO and the IAP have been collaborating to strengthen prosecutors’ capacities in investigating and prosecuting crimes against journalists, through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The cooperation resulted in the organization of a five-day international training course for prosecutors on investigating and prosecuting crimes against journalists, in 2022 in Siracusa, Italy, as well as UNESCO’s participation in the IAP’s 27th Annual Conference and General Meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The global online training course for prosecutors was organized within the framework of the UNESCO Judges’ Initiative. The Initiative is reported to have raised the capacities of over 25,500 judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers, in more than 150 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Arab region on international and regional standards on freedom of expression, access to information and the journalist safety since 2013.  

The Initiative has also created a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), held training workshops, and released a number of toolkits and guidelines.

The course was supported by the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists as well as the Open Society Foundations.