Safety of journalists in the changing media context
Safety of journalists in the changing
Guy Berger, UNESCO
SUMMER SCHOOL FOR JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA
“Freedom and Pluralism of Traditional and New Media”
Florence, 13-17 May 2013
European University Institute,
Sala Teatro, Badia Fiesolana, Via dei Roccettini, 9
• 2013 = 20th anniversary
of World Press
Freedom Day on 3 May
• 2012 = more than 120
• Anything to celebrate?
• UNIC-Fabrica video
1. Safety: what, who, why?
2. Whence the UN Plan of Action
3. Walking the talk
4. San Jose World Press Freedom Day 2013
5. Digital developments
1. SAFE – What?
• Freedom of expression a universal right.
• Safe to speak without fear – on the playground, in the
classroom, in politics, on social media, in the media.
• Why single out the press?
• San Jose #WPFD tweet: “Freedom of press does not protect
any one institution - it is the freedom of citizens to speak truth
to powers” - Costa Rica's Minister Francisco Chacon #wpfd
• Safety for all, especially for serving society through journalism
• #WPFD tweet: “You can't have press freedom without
journalism safety, and vice versa” - @gwenlister1
• Killing is the ultimate censorship – and self-censorship.
1.1 The problem of impunity
• #WPFD “Many more journos are
murdered than killed in crossfire
in battlefields, Frank Smythe”
• 2012 UNESCO Report: only nine
cases out of 245 cases (2006-
2009) led to a conviction.
• Impunity fuels a cycle of killings.
• It undermines public confidence
in rule of law.
• #WPFD “Safety of journalists will
never be resolved if impunity is
not addressed - UNESCO's Sylvie
1.2 The possibility to end impunity
• Most states would rather avoid the cycle of
having journalists murdered.
• #WPFD “Even the harshest dictators are sensitive
to negative publicity, says Finnish editor Niemi”
1.2 Safe for journalism
• UN Human Rights Committee defines journalism as:
“a function shared by a wide range of actors,
including professional full-time reporters and
analysts, as well as bloggers and others who engage
in forms of self-publication in print, on the Internet or
elsewhere”. General Comment No. 34 on article 19,
• UNESCO WorkPlan on Safety:
Uses UNESCO IPDC Decision of 23 March 2012: refers
to “journalists, media workers and social media
producers who generate a significant amount of
1.3 Who counts as a journalist?
UN Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of
Opinion and Expression states that:
“…journalists are understood to be individuals who
are dedicated to investigating, analysing and
disseminating information, in a regular and
specialised manner, through any type of written
media, broadcast media, (television or radio) or
“With the advent of new forms of communication,
journalism has extended into new areas, including
1.4 Who – in more detail
• Opponents (authors… & agents).
• Targets: practitioners, esp investigative, freelance.
• AND sources, citizens.
• #WPFD “Journalists should avoid a sense of being passive
victims of attacks, but should rather action their social role
- Javier Dario Restrepo”
• Victims or survivors? Professional journalism as a shield?
1.4 Who – in more detail
• #wpfd “Public
awareness is needed to
create a culture that
cherishes freedom of
expression - Deb
Seward, UN Dept of
• Stakeholders – media?
• WAN-IFRA video
• Helsinki Ilta Sanomat
paper – 80 stories.
1.5 Safety – what is it?
• Safety is a broad category.
• Ranges from preventive, protective and pre-
emptive measures, through to combating
impunity and promoting a social culture which
cherishes freedom of expression and press
• A factor of laws, institutions, capacities, cultures.
• Safety spans both online & offline worlds, and
1.6 Safety – the remit?
• Safe from all risks?
• Is journalism intrinsically dangerous?
• #WPFD “Egyptian delegate asks: is risk of death
intrinsic to job of journalist, like it is for a soldier?
An unavoidable price?”
• #WPFD “The price of doing journalism should not
be death, but feeling tired after a long day's work
– Adnan Rehmat”
• #WPFD Curacao: “In the Caribbean, journalists
are not killed, but their stories are”
1.6 Safety – the extent?
• Does safety mean safe from legalised actions – like jailings of
journalists for allegedly breaking laws?
• Ideally, safety needs a conducive environment of press freedom.
• But even where Press Freedom is in place, physical/psycho/gender
safety issues can exist.
2.1 UNESCO as midwife
• Constitution: to promote free flow of ideas by word & image
• Since 1997: Director-General condemns each killing.
• IPDC: safety as special initiative; training; research; indicators
• Since 2008: Member States are urged “to inform the Director-
General of UNESCO, on a voluntary basis, of the actions taken
to prevent the impunity of the perpetrators and to notify
her/him of the status of the judicial inquiries conducted on
each of the killings condemned by UNESCO”.
• Annual reports to UNESCO bodies (39 member IPDC council;
195 member General Conference)
• UNESCO Work Plan endorsed by Executive Board April 2013.
2.2 Other UN actors on safety
• UN statements:
– Human Rights Council adopted for the first time a
resolution on the importance of the safety of journalist as
a fundamental element of freedom of expression at its 21st
Session on 27 Sept 2012 (Res. A/HRC/21/L6)
• Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006)condemned
attacks against journalists in conflict situations
• Special Rapporteurs (video)
• Need more! = birth of UN Plan:
– Sept 2011: UNESCO convenes founding conference
– UN Chief Execs Board endorses UN Plan in April 2012
2.3 Philosophy of the UN Plan
• The work of each UN organisation is made easier when
journalists can work without fear,
• Many of these organisations also often work directly
with the media.
• No single UN body, and indeed even the UN as a
whole, can single-handedly deliver the results
envisaged by the UN Plan of Action.
• Strategy is designed on an inclusive basis, encouraging
multiple partnerships between all actors: UN bodies,
States, regional bodies, media actors and civil society.
2.4 Seeking strength in alignment:
• Actors outside of the UN have a major contribution to
offer, whether through joint or complimentary
• The Plan does not seek to assimilate any party, nor to
exclude independent activities about the safety of
• The ambition is to catalyse concerted multi-faceted
efforts that will produce results.
• The Plan can also be seen as a mobilising framework in
which diverse contributors advance their own interests
by also helping to advance a common cause.
2.5 What’s in the UN Plan of Action?
• Working toward 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.
• By Strengthening UN Mechanisms
• By Cooperating with Member States
• By Partnering with Other Organizations and Institutions
• By Raising Awareness
• By Fostering Safety Initiatives
3. WALKING THE TALK
• Between dreams and realities
3.1 Putting into effect
• November 2012
– Implementation Strategy devised
– Input from 21 UN agencies; 38 NGOs and
professional organisations; 37 governments.
• 120 actions for actors:
• UN & intergovernmental bodies
• Civil society, academia and media
• Cross-cutting: awareness raising.
3.2 Levels of work
• National focus: first phase countries
– South Sudan
• For effective local operationalization each
national approach/strategy must be based the
needs & possibilities of the country.
• Regional and global actions as well.
4.1 #WPFD TWEETS
• RT @irexmedia: Deb Seward: asking questions (safely) is the service
journalists (professional/ citizen) give society #pressfreedom #wpfd
• @Rachel_Pulfer: Hannah Storm: INSI is recognizing women need to
be treated differently from a safety perspective #wpfd
• Crisis should be an opportunity for journalists to reflect on how
they can do a better job - Javier Dario Restrepo #wpfd
• RT @irexmedia: Raised at #wpfd: growing "skills" of anti
#pressfreedom actors online, eg digitally posing as journalists to
• Everyone can be tracked and attacked; the net is not anonymous.
Digital risks can become physical threats - Acosta #wpfd
• Corporate soc responsibility = not selling surveillance software to
states that repress people for exercising free speech - La Rue #wpfd
• Slogan: Safe to speak … on all media
• Declaration: Urges all to support UN Plan
• Panels on safety issues:
– A safe environment
– Addressing impunity
– Judicial perspectives
– Safety online, and trainings
– Good practices
– Covering drugs and crime
• UN involvement – side meeting 11 agencies.
• LA governments – Mexico, Brazil, Honduras,
• Taking forward the agenda…
5.1 Online, offline
• Freedom House's Mariclaire Acosta: citizen journos &
bloggers are also very vulnerable in Mexico, they need
• Acosta: only 2 Mexican papers have been brave enough to
publish & follow-up on journo killings, so social media is
becoming an outlet #wpfd
• Acosta: research shows that social media is best source of
info on violence, but 4 producers killed - 2 decapitated
• RT @irexmedia: Feeling you have nothing to hide online
doesn't mean you, your networks are not "of interest" to
someone now or someday
• Personal and professional: convergence
• Digital footprints: surfing, email, “Petraes myth”,
phonecalls, geolocation, layers of data collectors.
• Offline electronic records
• Cyberattacks, trolls and imposters
• Need international standards for governments &
intermediaries for protecting online FoE.
• Individuals / media houses, need digi-quette.
• Many threats have a digital trail/tail.
1. Safety: why, who, what
2. Whence the UN Plan of Action
3. Walking the talk
4. San Jose WPFD 2013
5. Digital developments
TAKE AWAY POINT
A window of opportunity with the UN Plan – to
harmonise and intensify actions, draw in new
energy and resources.
(First review will be carried out in January 2014).
• Thank you