UNGA Adopts Resolution on Safety of Journalists

António Guterres, UN Secretary General
António Guterres, UN Secretary General

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 19, 2017 adopted a new resolution on “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” condemning “all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers”, including  “specific attacks on women journalists in the exercise of their work.”

In the Resolution, sponsored by 88 countries including Nigeria, the General Assembly expressed “deep concern at the increased number of journalists and media workers who have been killed, tortured, arrested, detained, harassed and intimidated in recent years as a direct result of their profession,” and “calls upon States to implement more effectively the applicable legal framework for the protection of journalists”.

The General Assembly noted the specific risks faced by women journalists in the exercise of their work, and the importance of taking a gender-sensitive approach when considering measures to address the safety of journalists, including in the online sphere, in particular to effectively tackle gender-based discrimination to enable women to enter and remain in journalism on equal terms with men while ensuring their greatest possible safety.

The Resolution also specifically acknowledged “the particular risks with regard to the safety of journalists in the digital age, including the particular vulnerability of journalists to becoming targets of unlawful or arbitrary surveillance or interception of communications in violation of their rights to privacy and to freedom of expression.

It therefore called upon States to tackle sexual and gender-based discrimination, including incitement to hatred both online and offline; pay attention to the safety of journalists covering events where people are exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression; and enforce mechanisms with the capacity to pay systematic attention to their safety.

The General Assembly also called for “the immediate and unconditional release of journalists and media workers who have been arbitrarily arrested, arbitrarily detained or taken hostage or who have become victims of enforced disappearances.”

While encouraging States to take the advantage of the proclamation of November 2 being the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists to raise awareness regarding the issue of the safety of journalists and to launch concrete initiatives in this regard, it also requested UNESCO to continue to facilitate the implementation of the International Day in collaboration with Governments and relevant stakeholders.

It urged States to implement legislative and judicial measures in ensuring the safety of journalists while also ensuring accountability “through the conduct of impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction, to bring perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes to justice, and to ensure that victims and their families have access to appropriate remedies.”

The Resolution touched on the issue of combating terrorism, urging States to ensure that measures to preserve national security or public order are in compliance with their obligations under international law and do not arbitrarily or unduly hinder the work and safety of journalists, including through arbitrary arrest or detention or the threat of any such.

Signifying the importance of the Universal Periodic Review, the General Assembly encouraged States to continue to address the issue of the safety of journalists through the periodic review process.