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UN launches strategy to guarantee the safety of journalists

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The Implementation Strategy on United Nations Plan for the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity 2013-2014 is now available. This strategy combines efforts among all actors to promote a free and safe environment for journalists in both conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to enabling an informed citizenry that is capable of strengthening peace, democracy and development worldwide.

The document includes a work-plan to put the UN Plan of Action in to effect, and follows extensive consultation since the endorsement of the Plan by the UN Chief Executives Board on 12 April 2012. The strategy is designed to be implemented at global and regional level, and for adaptation at national level. In the initial phase of its roll-out, and in order to concentrate efforts, the Strategy is especially being adapted to a selection of countries including Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan and South Sudan, as well as Latin America.

The Strategy outlines more than 100 concrete actions to be put in place over the coming two years by different UN agencies working in conjunction with other entities, as part of joint efforts to secure the safety of journalists. Among the measures set out are:

  • creating UN internal coordination mechanisms to harmonize the UN actions in this field;

  • supporting governments to develop laws on safeguarding journalists and mechanisms favorable to freedom of expression and information;

  • conducting awareness-raising activities so that citizens understand the importance of the right to freedom of expression and access to information;

  • providing training for journalists on the issue of safety and online safety;

  • promoting good working conditions for journalists developing their professional activities on both a full-time and freelance basis;

  • establishing real time emergency response mechanisms; and

  • enhancing special measures for women journalists in response to the increasing incidence of sexual harassment and rape.

Led by UNESCO, the strategy is the result of a participatory process involving almost 100 actors including UN bodies, intergovernmental organizations, professional associations, media houses, NGOs, academia and governments. These culminated in a draft version that was discussed during the 2nd UN Inter-Agency Meeting on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which took place in Vienna in November 2012. After further consultations, the strategy has now been finalized in February 2013.

The stimulus for entire process dates further back to a request made in 2010 by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

The implementation of this Strategy on The Safety of Journalists and The Issue of Impunity will be coordinated by UNESCO in close cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR). Its success depends on a far greater range of actors, whose names can be consulted within the document.

Throughout the process, mid-term evaluations and follow-up meetings will help to ensure that steps are being made in the right direction.