Background

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, briefed the Board on the United Nations plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. Over the last decade, more than 500 journalists and media workers worldwide had been killed, and many more wounded, while carrying out their professional responsibilities. According to the latest biennial report on the safety of journalists and the danger of impunity, released by UNESCO in March 2012, 62 journalists had been killed in 2011. It was most alarming that, in most cases, these journalists had not been reporting on armed conflicts but rather on local stories, often related to corruption and such illegal activities as organized crime and drugs.

Discussion

Ms. Bokova noted that the safety of journalists was essential to guarantee article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which covered the right to freedom of expression. It was also essential to protect the right of all citizens to reliable information and the right of journalists to provide this information without fearing for their security. In light of this, there had been a pressing need for organizations of the United Nations system to develop a single, strategic and harmonized approach to have greater impact on this critical issue. The United Nations plan of action, which had resulted from the first United Nations inter-agency meeting on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, hosted by UNESCO in September 2011, was aimed at working towards the creation of a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers in both conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to strengthening peace, democracy and development worldwide. She informed the Board that the plan contained a number of measures that would be further refined and concretized during a follow-up inter-agency meeting in Vienna in November 2012. In the meantime, at its twenty eighth session, the International Programme for the Development of Communication, held on 22 and 23 March 2012, had adopted a decision that commended progress made in the preparation of the plan of action.

The Secretary-General thanked Ms. Bokova for the important work done by UNESCO in this area and for having initiated the plan of action. He stressed the vital role played by journalists and media workers, who often risked their lives to provide information to the public that would often not otherwise be available. He had used his authority to help to intervene in cases of abduction of such personnel, working behind the scenes to ensure their release from captivity.

Action

The Board endorsed the the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.