The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has organized a conference to address the increasing incidence of violence against journalists. This conference was organized one week after the Charlie Hebdo Attack in Paris, France. The conference which was tagged “Journalism after Charlie” aimed to discuss the growing frequency of attacks against journalists and the need to reinforce respect for diversity and freedom of expression. Journalists, religious leaders and human rights activists were gathered at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters for the conference.
The UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova in her remarks while opening the conference said, “The attack against CharlieHebdo was an attack on freedom of expression whose flagbearers are journalists.” She also mentioned that the best way to pay tribute to the Charlie Hebdo’s journalists “is to act and work out solutions to the crisis”.
The key questions considered by journalists and NGO representatives on the conference’s panel include: How should the international community respond to enhance journalists’ safety and end impunity? What is the role of journalists in these circumstances? How can we maintain free media? And what’s the role of new media in all of this? Some of the members on the panel who took part of the debate include: Younes M’Jahed the first Vice President of the IFJ, Ernest Sagaga Head of Human Rights and Safety and Dominique Pradilie from the Syndicat national des journalistes (France).
In his speech at the gathering, President of Pen International, John Ralston Saul reminded the audience: “The vast majority of journalists killed each year are not being killed by Islamists. The major problem for us is impunity. There are many countries where journalists are imprisoned and there is an impunity problem where it shouldn’t be… (In places like) Russia and Mexico.”
Dominique Pradilie of the Syndicat national des journalistes also vehemently urged participants of the conference that even though the government continually fails to carry out investigations on cases of journalist attacks, they should take global actions to ensure accountability at legal institutions. It was recommended that the Unity March which brought together world leaders to increase pressure on governments which don’t respect the rights of journalists be capitalized upon. It was said that this would include lobbying international donors to adopt economic sanctions.
The Charlie Hebdo massacre took place on January 7 2015, at the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The massacre which claimed the lives of 12 people was said to be the worst ever recorded in Europe.