“Even though the number of journalists killed in 2016 is slightly lower than in the previous year, the perils and challenges faced by media workers worldwide show no sign of abating,” stated Frank La Rue, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information. “The profession of a journalist is not a safe one, and a press accreditation card or display of media equipment has often served as an extra reason to be targeted.”
The 2016 figure compares to 115 in 2015 as recorded by UNESCO, 98 in 2014 and 90 in 2013. Each killing is condemned by the UNESCO Director General who calls for a judicial investigation to bring the killers to book.
The most lives were lost in the Arab States, where the armed conflicts in the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq and Yemen have claimed the largest share. Media operating in Latin America and the Caribbean saw 28 casualties, including bloggers and freelancers, constituting the region as second deadliest in 2016.
Although impunity statistics are not yet available for the cases of killings in 2016, widespread impunity for acts of violence against the media has long been a cause for concern: barely one out of ten cases of killed journalists has led to a conviction in the past.
“When crimes against journalists, of any kind, remain unpunished, it implies that media can continuously be harassed and attacked,” added Mr La Rue. “Impunity slowly gags journalists and media, where fear of reprisal turns into self-censorship, depriving each and every one of us from vital information.” This climate of impunity demonstrates that publishing and broadcasting stories can pose lethal risks, leaving less room for in-depth reporting on sensitive information or inconvenient truths.
Online hate speech and gender-based harassment were also evident in 2016 as additional dangers next to the physical threats toward the lives of journalists.
UNESCO coordinates the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, the first concerted effort in tackling these issues. Entering its fifth year of implementation, it brings together all stakeholders, including civil society organizations, academia, media houses, intergovernmental bodies as well as government actors. The UN Plan of Action has provided a large impetus to addressing the plight of media worldwide, and actively contributes to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Tim Dawson, President of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom and Ireland delivered a training, based on his long serving experience as trade unionist, to trainers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Turkey and Kosovo*. It included various techniques aimed to ensure the recognition of trade unions and their efficiency in bargaining collective agreements and wages. The training was attended by 13 participants from the region.
Despite the existence of some legal guarantees, reports too often highlight that journalists’ labour rights in South East Europe and Turkey are more breached than upheld. The lack of independent journalists’ trade unions that could defend proper contracts and strengthen social protection measures of journalists appears a central part of the problem.
The training class hence covered important areas for improving journalists’ labour rights, among others: (i) trade union recognition agreements; (ii) components of wage claims; (iii) collective bargaining techniques; (iv) annual negotiation on wages; (v) education of media owners on labour rights; (vi) ways to strengthen workers networks within the group of media enterprises; (vii) cooperation with international trade union networks; (viii) ways to encourage journalists to organize themselves and act collectively; (ix) settlement procedures, etc.
Based on the ideas and best practices presented during the workshop by Tim Dawson, participants were requested to repeat this workshop locally for the benefit of their members. The EFJ will organize a follow-up ToT seminar next year.
The UNESCO-EFJ project “Building Trust in media in South East Europe and Turkey” is funded by the European Union. The project supports media freedom and media integrity in the EU enlargement countries by improving the internal governance of media organizations through the implementation of internal rules and good practices that recognize human rights and labour standards.
* Administered by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244
"For more than 10 years, I have been organizing successful summer schools on media ethics for journalists students. Considering the demand and importance of the topic for journalists, we developed the idea to use our network of trainers and expertise to record online classes and thereby reach more people than our summer students," explained Ljiljana Zurovac, the Executive Director of the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The online platform currently features 12 classes with trainers in the format of questions and answers. The topics covered are both general and specific and comprise freedom of speech, media ethics and radio journalism, the responsibilities of online news portals, ethical standards of investigative journalism.
The main ambition of the online media ethics school is to become a leading educational portal on media ethics for the South East European region. Such materials should encourage journalists to abide by high ethical standards and prove them that it is possible to build a career in journalism while respecting professional standards.
The EU-funded Project "Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey," provides support to media self-regulation mechanisms with the objective to strengthen media professional standards and media quality.
More information about the online media ethics school is available in a video clip here: https://youtu.be/JzEB_84_Mlk
Svetlana Smirnova, the widow of journalist Alexander Efremov who was killed in Chechnya, along with the couple’s daughter and grand-daughter attended the event, as did family members of other killed journalists.
As a sign of respect for his work, a statue of Efremov has been erected in his home town by his community. President of the Russian Union of Journalists, Vsevolod Bogdanov, showed a miniature of the memorial (see photo), and highlighted the personal and societal loss when a journalist is murdered.
Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Ali Akhmedovich Kamalov, who is also chair of the Journalists Union of Dagestan, appealed for support for funds for a 16-metre-high column to serve as a public monument in Makhachkala for 19 journalists who had lost their lives within his region since 1992.
While there had been no killings in the region in the past three years, he said, it was important to keep alive the memory of those who had lost their lives in the service of informing the public.
UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger, underlined the contribution of journalists to society, the importance of celebrating their work and the need for justice in cases of killings.
He noted that 19 deaths had been recorded by UNESCO since 2006 in the Russian Federation, and that 11 had been judicially resolved according to information supplied by the Russian authorities to the Director-General’s report to the Organization’s International Programme for the Development of Communication.
From the International Federation of Journalists, Oliver Money-Kyrie said that no union had done as much as the Russian Union of Journalists to deal with the issue of journalists as victims of violence. “You are an inspiration to journalists everywhere,” he stated.
The event was accompanied by a seminar on threats and opportunities for regional media in the digital age, organized by the Russian Union of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists and the European Union.
Speaking during the seminar, Berger drew attention to the potential of UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators, Media Viability Indicators, and the Media and Information Literacy country readiness matrix. “Research using these indicators can identify the strengths and weaknesses of regional media, which provides an evidence-base for actions to address the digital opportunities and threats,” he said.
Berger later delivered a lecture about UNESCO’s work at the faculty of journalism at Lomonosov Moscow State University.
The week marked the last day of service as Executive Director of the Russian Union of Journalists by Nadezda Azhgikhina, and her achievements in the position since 2003 were hailed by Ricardo Gutierrez, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists. She will continue to work in the field of journalism development.
UNESCO welcomes perspectives from any academic discipline, illuminating various aspects of the theme in diverse societal contexts. The killing, harassment and intimidation of journalists not only constitute violations against the targeted individuals and their families, but also restrict the flow of information and ideas directly and indirectly, by creating a climate of fear and self-censorship.
Abstracts in English of up to 300 words must be submitted by 9 January 2017 via the academic conference’s website.
The conference considers the theme of journalists’ safety holistically. The conference will cover preventive, protective and pre-emptive measures; it will include combating impunity as well as promoting a social culture that prizes press freedom and is tolerant of different viewpoints. We welcome contributions from any disciplinary perspective and scholarly approach, from quantitative or qualitative empirical studies to conceptual explorations of the theme.
Studies could focus, for example, on rights and legal issues; socio-political contexts; institutional and professional practices; and public attitudes. For the 2017 conference, we are particularly (but not exclusively) interested in scholarship that examines:
- how a culture of intolerance intimidates journalists and other commentators;
- threats from the ground from state and non-state actors including the public;
- the effectiveness of existing training and other programmes addressing journalists’ safety and impunity;
- journalists’ safety and impunity from a comparative, multi-country perspective;
- “meta” questions of how to frame research into the safety of journalists.
For a more comprehensive list of potential research topics, please refer to UNESCO’s Research Agenda on journalists’ safety as well as the 2016 UNESCO Academic Research Conference on Safety of Journalists in Helsinki, Finland.
To ensure diverse participation and in collaboration with Hong Kong Baptist University, a limited number of partial/full sponsorship is available covering flights and hotel accommodation, with priority given to academics based in the Global South. Most meals will be provided. No registration fee will be charged. Please refer to the academic conference’s website for more information concerning travel support.
Participants of the academic conference are expected to arrive in Jakarta no later than 2 May 2017 (Tuesday) and depart no earlier than late evening of 4 May 2017 (Thursday).
Participants of the academic conference will be joining some aspects of the main celebration of World Press Freedom Day including the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Gala Dinner on 3 May 2017. For security and logistical reasons, all participants (academic conference and main event) MUST register via the dedicated WPFD 2017 website.
Details including WPFD 2017 main event’s agenda, practical information of the conference venue, and hotel accommodation will be made available on the official WPFD 2017 website as we move closer to the date.
Director-General urges safer conditions for media workers following confirmation of the death of two Syrian journalists
Director-General urges investigation into killing of journalist Jesús Adrián Rodríguez Samaniego in Mexico
From 7 to 18 November 2016, UNESCO-supported Climate Radio had more than 150 guests and broadcasted live for more than 90 hours, including a 7-hour non-stop live coverage of the “Walk for Climate” on 13 November. More than 200 news reports and 48 news bulletins were produced.
Climate Radio productions were streamed online on climateradio.net and shared in Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC) for rebroadcasting by community radios in at least 18 other countries including Canada, France, Jordan, Mali, Mexico, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda and USA. The radio also broadcasted locally on 100.1 FM, targeting the 50k+ COP22 delegates as well as the residents of the Marrakesh-Tensift-El Haouz region, making Climate Radio the first community-run radio on an FM frequency in Morocco.
The team of eighteen young CSO radio producers from Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Jordan, Israel, Morocco, Palestine, Rwanda and Tunisia were selected respecting gender balance through an open call. They were trained on the basis of UNESCO’s tools such as Climate Change in Africa: A Guidebook for Journalists, and Teaching Journalism for Sustainable Development. A global enquiry on community radios’ editorial needs was undertaken before the production started.
“COP22 gave me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge on the causes, effects and adaptation measures taken to combat climate change,” said Ms. Leyla Mutebi, one of the Climate Radio producers from Uganda. “This was a very exciting opportunity for me as a journalist to report at a global event where I conducted a number of interviews with high profile people like Ms Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General; Ambassador Dessima Williams, Special Advisor of the President of the UN General Assembly for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; Mrs. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Women; among others.”
Climate Radio also sought to advance Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly its target 10 (i.e. Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms). Based on UNESCO’s mandate and expertise, Climate Radio contributes to addressing climate change and the role of community media in setting platforms for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Climate Radio was coordinated by the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), in partnership with the Forum des Alternatives Maroc (FMAS), with funding and support from the UNESCO Office in Rabat in the framework of the Networks of Mediterranean Youth (NET-MED Youth) project funded by the European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The initiative was developed in partnership with the Civil Society COP22 coordinating committee.