Nov 27, 2012
UNESCO mobilises efforts to improve safety for journalists and fight impunity even as the right to free expression faces violent attacks.
The foiled bomb attack on Hamid Mir, a popular television journalist in Pakistan brought to light the trying conditions journalists ply their trade on in one of South Asia's most troubled countries. On the other hand, it brought to fore the importance of a United Nations system-wide plan to create a safer working environment for journalists, a system which was given new momentum in Vienna last week at a UNESCO-organised meeting.
The UN plans to systematically bring the UN family of agencies together to address the worsening situation of the safety of journalists, media workers, and social media producers. This initiative is UNESCO's first-ever effort to address the culture of impunity surrounding the crimes against media professionals like Hamid Mir.
The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity is the result of a process that began in 2010 upon request of the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’S International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). The Plan was endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board on 12 April, 2012.
Pakistan is one of the five places recommended for a comprehensive implementation of the plan, the others being Iraq, Nepal, South Sudan, and Latin America. “We are delighted that the United Nations recognises that more needs to be done to ensure that journalists can carry out their work without fear of attack,” said Larry Kilman, deputy CEO of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). However, he cautioned, “The key for the success of this plan will rest on the degree of cooperation from UN member states, who carry the responsibility of tackling a culture of impunity by bringing the attacks and killers of media professionals to justice. We hope the UN’s approach will contribute to more engagement from national authorities.”
This message was echoed at a parallel round-table discussion organised by the International Press Institute at the Presse Club Concordia in Vienna, at which panelists concluded that governments worldwide must take responsibility for ending the threat to the safety of journalists.
If the attack on journalists in Pakistan and elsewhere in South Asia is any indication, it is never too late to put into place such a plan of action.