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Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women
Updated: 1 hour 37 min ago

IPDC elects first ever woman Chair

Thu, 20/11/2014 - 16:25

The Council of the International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC) also elected a woman Rapporteur, Ms Diana Heymann-Adu (Ghana), a senior lecturer from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

Council members also nominated Algeria, Bangladesh and Peru for the three IPDC Bureau Vice-Chair positions, as well as Denmark, Niger and Poland for the three Bureau regular membership seats.

The changes were made at the 29th IPDC Council session on 20 November at UNESCO HQ (Paris, France). The Member States of the Council thanked the outgoing Chair, Mr Jyrki Pulkkinen (Finland), who led the IPDC for the last two years, for his commitment to the Programme and his successful chairmanship.

IPDC was set up in 1980 as the only intergovernmental programme in the UN system mandated to mobilize international support in order to contribute to sustainable development, democracy and good governance by strengthening the capacities of free and independent media. Since its creation, IPDC has channeled about US$ 105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in some 140 countries.

IPDC’s Council is composed of 39 Member States elected by UNESCO’s General Conference. It meets once every two years to reflect on the latest trends in the media development field and give direction to the Programme. The Bureau of eight Member States meets once a year and allocates support to grassroots media projects around the world.

UNESCO’s Information for All Programme contributes to the successful outcome of an international conference on electronic governance

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 13:33

With a theme of ‘The Rise of Data Post-2015 – Empowered Citizens, Accountable Institutions”, the event generated considerable interest amongst governments, academics and practitioners attracting papers from 330 authors from 50 countries as well as hundreds of attendees. The conference was structured around daily plenary sessions, six thematic parallel tracks which ran over three-days as well as 8 thematic and 13 invited sessions.

The conference’s outputs will be distributed by UNU-EGOV to inform the preparation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda being developed under the leadership of the United Nation System.

UNESCO/IFAP’s contribution to the event comprised co-organization and co-chairing of the conference track on “Ethics, Accountability and Transparency”, as well as two UNESCO-sponsored sessions. The Ethics, Accountability and Transparency Track included tutorials, presentations of national experiences from Portugal as well as academic and practitioner papers which highlighted experiences from developed and developing countries. The first UNESCO-sponsored session “Ethical Challenges of the Information Society” presented work being undertaken to develop an Information Ethics Training Kit for policy makers that builds on activities in the framework of the WSIS C10 Action Line “Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society”. The session provided an opportunity to conduct a tutorial for policy-makers and receive feedback on the Training Kit. The second UNESCO-sponsored session, “Building Knowledge Societies: Lessons from the Mekong River”, brought together senior government officials from Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam to share experiences on national strategies, lessons and achievements towards equitable and inclusive knowledge-based development.

The ICEGOV2014 event represented the 4th step in the UNESCO/IFAP – UNU collaboration that begun last year. This collaboration commenced in July 2013 with the organizing of a one-week Executive Training on Foundations of Government Information Leadership in Kampala, Uganda for senior policy makers from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda. In November 2013, a similar event was held in Yangon, Myanmar, attracting policy makers from Mongolia and Myanmar. During the ICEGOV2013 organized in Seoul, Korea in October 2013, UNESCO/IFAP co-organized several sessions including a Town Hall-style plenary debate on Building Knowledge Societies.

ICEGOV2014 also provided opportunities for Mr. Paul Hector, UNESCO Programme Specialist with responsibility for IFAP’s overall operations worldwide, to explore opportunities for collaboration with a variety of participants working in the IFAP priorities areas. According to Mr. Hector, “ICEGOV was an excellent opportunity to meet with a number of new potential partners working on many of the policy, programmatic and technical issues central to building knowledge societies. I was able to share and explore areas of complementary activity particularly around accessibility, multilingualism and information ethics”.

Speaking about the prospects for UNESCO/IFAP - UNU-EGOV cooperation, “As further concrete steps we are exploring engagement of UNESCO/IFAP at ICEGOV2015 in Tunis and how to incorporate the UNESCO/IFAP Information Ethics Training Kit and other courses into our Government Chief Information Officer training”, said Dr. Tomasz Janowski, Head of the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance and Coordinator of ICEGOV.

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.

UNESCO launches a manual on freedom of expression and public order

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 11:52

The manual aims to give members of the security forces the tools that would enable them to both accomplish maintenance of order in compliance with human rights, and interact in a professional manner with journalists while guaranteeing their security.

At the regional celebration of the International Day, civil society representatives and media professionals coming from North African countries - Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya - discovered the new manual, which is a reference in terms of security sector reform, specifically regarding human rights, freedom of expression and security of journalists.

The project under which the manual has been produced is the first of its kind in the Arab world. Implemented in cooperation with the Tunisian Ministry of Interior Affairs and funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tunisia, it aims at improving the relations between members of security forces and journalists, which is crucial during periods of democratic transition. The ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tunisia, Hans van Vloten Dissevelt, attended the launch event.

The training workshops were conducted this year at three locations in Tunis: The National Training School for managers of safety and National Police in Salambo, the National Center for Lifelong Education of the National Security in Carthage Birsa, and the Training Centre for National Security in Tunis Bouchoucha. They were also held in four other regions of Tunisia: Kairouan, Sfax, Zarzis and Kef. All trainings included sessions attended by both members of security forces and journalists.

The Manual on freedom of expression and public order is currently available in French. English and Arabic versions are under preparation and will be released soon.

>> To download the manual in French please click here.


Media and information literacy training for religious leaders and dialogue practitioners

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 17:00

As a first step for dialogue, people should have an accurate understanding of different religious communities and beliefs—and their preconceptions about these are shaped in large part by the media and information – offline or online. This requires:

  • Those who promote dialogue therefore should strengthen the way they engage with the media and online, in order to promote more accurate information.
  • Those who consume news and information must be media and information savvy—they should understand media and information dynamics and reflect on the way that representations affect their perceptions.

Two different training courses will be offered in each of two cities, Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 November 2014 and New Delhi, India from 22 – 25 November 2014. More than 80 religious leaders and interreligious dialogue practitioners will take part.

The key local partners are the Global Network of Religions for Children in Nairobi, Kenya and Sarv Dharma Sansad in New Delhi, India. T

One of the courses is titled, “Media Wise: Empowering Responsible Religious Leadership in the Digital Age”.  It is based on an adaptation of the UNESCO Media and Information Literacy Curriculum. UNESCO is partnering with KAICIID to pilot this new curriculum.  

Religious leaders are consumers and transmitters of information. This curriculum was tailored by KAICIID and UNESCO, enabling religious leaders to: understand the news media; assess how news and information shape perceptions about religions and cultures; find quality information; and address misinformation when they see it.

The  second course is titled, “Speak Up: Social Media and Communications Training for Interreligious Dialogue Practitioners”. Too often, messages of positive action and peace are drowned by narratives of violence and breaking news about conflicts conducted in the name of religion. This course will help dialogue practitioners to use social media channels and to engage with journalists to tell their stories of peace.

KAICIID partners will work to monitor their progress and development over the next six months. Evaluations from trainees and trainers will help to shape and enrich the final curricula and training courses.

“KAICIID is delighted to announce its engagement in the all-important field of media,” said Faisal Bin Muaammar, KAICIID Secretary General. “Religious leaders and dialogue practitioners should be empowered to use media with skill and savvy, and speak out for peace. Two KAICIID products seeking to support this change are being field tested next month. KAICIID hopes in the near future to offer these trainings around the world.”

KAICIID is piloting two training curricula that will address media engagement in two ways.

Globalization and technological innovations have changed the media landscape and the way we interact with the media. Social media platforms offer every person the opportunity to broadcast their messages to the world. The Internet allows ever more people to connect in new ways, and provides a tremendous opportunity for dialogue. At the same time, it makes it easier for misinformation and even hate speech to be broadcast and shared. KAICIID seeks to bolster more accurate representations of all faiths by building the skills of the key players in interreligious dialogue: religious leaders and dialogue practitioners.

As has been noted by the Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO - “…We need greater media and information literacy, to ensure everyone has the right and ability to speak out… We must also make the most of media for dialogue and mutual understanding, within and across cultures, especially with young people, to challenge all stereotypes and all incitement to hatred”

Request for Proposals: Media Landscape Analysis, MDI Assessment - Jordan

Fri, 14/11/2014 - 10:46

The proposal should comprise the following components:

  • A description of the organization/party wanting to undertake the assignment;
  • A description of the proposed team, including CVs;
  • Comments on the Terms of Reference if any (in brief);
  • An approach and methodology for the assignment;
  • A detailed work plan for the assignment, including time-line;

The total budget for the assignment, quoted in US dollars. Fees, travel costs, per diems and other costs to be shown separately, as the basis for calculation, but to be included in the total lump sum. More than one scenario may be provided according to different budget ceilings.

Please note that:

  • Your proposal and any supporting documents must be in English.
  • Your proposal should be submitted by e-mail no later than 28 November 2014.

Proposals shall be sent to Mr Johan Romare, copying Ms Rasha Arafeh.

Johan Romare will answer questions on the Request for Proposals on the e-mail above.

Thank you for your interest in this UNESCO assignment, we look forward to receiving your proposal.

From safety of journalists to online privacy, IPDC Council to debate most cutting-edge issues in media development field

Fri, 14/11/2014 - 10:00

These and many other issues will be discussed by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which opens in the UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France) on 20 November 2014. A special session will also be devoted to online privacy and freedom of expression, including the right to be forgotten.

IPDC was set up in 1980 as the only intergovernmental programme in the UN system mandated to mobilize international support in order to contribute to sustainable development, democracy and good governance by strengthening the capacities of free and independent media. Since its creation, IPDC has channeled about US$ 105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in some 140 countries.

IPDC’s Council is composed of 39 Member States elected by UNESCO’s General Conference. It meets once every two years to reflect on the latest trends in the media development field and give direction to the Programme. In addition to projects supported on an annual basis all over the world, IPDC has also launched a series of initiatives aimed at building a knowledge base in strategic areas, such as:

  • Safety of Journalism
  • Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism education
  • Assessing Media Development: Media Development Indicators
  • IPDC and Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • Knowledge Driven Media Development
  • Media sustainability

The IPDC Council will also elect a new Chair and new Bureau members. For further information about the Council meeting, please visit the IPDC website.

From safety of journalists to online privacy, IPDC Council to debate most cutting-edge issues in media development field

Fri, 14/11/2014 - 10:00

These and many other issues will be discussed by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which opens in the UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France) on 20 November 2014. A special session will also be devoted to online privacy and freedom of expression, including the right to be forgotten.

IPDC was set up in 1980 as the only intergovernmental programme in the UN system mandated to mobilize international support in order to contribute to sustainable development, democracy and good governance by strengthening the capacities of free and independent media. Since its creation, IPDC has channeled about US$ 105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in some 140 countries.

IPDC’s Council is composed of 39 Member States elected by UNESCO’s General Conference. It meets once every two years to reflect on the latest trends in the media development field and give direction to the Programme. In addition to projects supported on an annual basis all over the world, IPDC has also launched a series of initiatives aimed at building a knowledge base in strategic areas, such as:

  • Safety of Journalism
  • Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism education
  • Assessing Media Development: Media Development Indicators
  • IPDC and Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • Knowledge Driven Media Development
  • Media sustainability

The IPDC Council will also elect a new Chair and new Bureau members. For further information about the Council meeting, please visit the IPDC website.

Regional commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists for Maghreb

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 15:41

The conference aimed at promoting a dialogue between representatives of media and civil society to enhance journalist’s safety. This is an essential element for democracy, peace and development worldwide.

118 participants attended the event, among them representatives of media and civil society, journalists, human right activists, students, experts and lawyers from Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

“Journalists are exposed to many risks: economic fragility, physical danger, stress pressures, persecution and, as our colleagues in Libya, death. This first commemoration is the possibility to honor these deaths but also to discuss on how we, journalists, civil society and decision makers, could better cooperate to end impunity for crimes against journalists and to foster safety of journalist in our region” says a journalist.

After the two-day meeting, the audience elaborated some recommendation on how to foster the cooperation between civil society and media in order to stop impunity and violence against journalists.  Moreover, 75 journalists and activists from the region were trained during three different workshops in online security, conflict sensitive reporting and journalists’ rights.

UNESCO will continue to mobilize attention on the UN plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity and call upon relative stakeholders to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference.

Five Asian Open Universities adopt open licensing and MOOCs

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 15:23

The Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) is a non-profit organization of Asian higher learning institutions that are primarily concerned with education at a distance. The AAOU was founded in 1987 by a number of open universities in the Asian region who realized the significant contribution of distance education in democratizing the provision of learning opportunities to mankind.

The OpenupEd Workshop at the 2014 AAOU Conference represented the Asian launch of the Globalizing OpenupEd Project which aims to empower key national higher education institutions to offer courses with full open licenses (OERs) and to transform them into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are defined as any type of educational materials in the public domain, or released with an open license allowing free use, adaptation, and distribution. They present educational institutions with a strategic opportunity to increase the quality of educational materials.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are characterized as free-of-cost, openly-accessible, online courses which can support ‘massive’ numbers of students.

By transforming OER courses into MOOCs that can be accessed free-of-cost and easily via mobile phones or mobile devices, UNESCO hopes to ‘massively’ increase the number of new learners accessing high-quality, relevant education from Asia and internationally.

OpenupEd is the world’s first MOOC Initiative that offers learners several unique innovations:

  1. Courses are to be made immediately/progressively available as OERs with at least CC BY SA licenses
  2. The university partners will offer full recognition, and additional credit for fees;
  3. Some courses are to offer cohort-independence

With support from the European Commission, UNESCO is Globalizing OpenupEd in Africa working with the Africa Council for Distance Education (ACDE), and in Asia working with the Asian Association for Open Universities (AAOU).

The Project is led by Abel Caine, UNESCO Programme Specialist in OERs, and Professor Fred Mulder, UNESCO OER Chair.

The High-Level Workshop attracted over 30 representatives from the following countries:

  1. China
  2. Hong Kong
  3. India
  4. Indonesia
  5. Japan
  6. Korea
  7. Malaysia
  8. Pakistan
  9. Philippines
  10. Singapore
  11. Sri Lanka
  12. Thailand
  13. Vietnam

The Rectors, Presidents, and Vice Chancellors of the following universities were in full attendance:

  1. University of the Philippines Open University, The Philippines
  2. Open University Malaysia, Malaysia
  3. SIM University , Singapore
  4. Korea National Open University, Korea
  5. The Open University of Japan, Japan
  6. Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, Thailand
  7. The Open University of Hong Kong , Hong Kong
  8. Universitas Terbuka, Indonesia
  9. Krishana Kanta Handiqui State Open University, India
  10. Wawasan Open University, Malaysia
  11. The Open University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka

Moderated by Dr Li Kam Cheong, Secretary-General of the AAOU, there were 4 main presentations by:

  1. Abel Caine – UNESCO OER Programme
  2. Professor Fred Mulder – OpenupEd Project
  3. Professor Tsuneo Yamada – Japan MOOCs
  4. Professor Tae-Rim Lee – Korea MOOCs

The Workshop was very lively with enthusiastic discussions on the definitions, misconceptions, and risks/benefits of open licensing and MOOCs and the implications for the Asian context. Two major decisions followed on the Workshop:

  1. The AAOU Executive has formed a Task Force to promote Open Licensing and the development of MOOCs;
  2. The OU5 – a group of 5 ASEAN Open Universities agreed to open-license and MOOC the 1st course of the Masters in ASEAN Studies.

Mr Abel Caine from UNESCO was very pleased with the Workshop, “We have a major agreement from 5 ASEAN open universities to open-license and MOOC the 1st course of a prominent Masters in ASEAN Studies. This is very important in the context of the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community possibly in 2015.”

The Workshop was extensively promoted by local media with many comments on Twitter and shared photos (

The medium term goal of the OpenupEd Project is to have ‘massive’ numbers of students benefitting from multiple openly-licensed MOOCs by key African and Asian universities to be highlighted at the World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea in May 2015.

Alliance calls for strong global gender and media agenda

Thu, 06/11/2014 - 15:23

“We cannot talk about equality, good governance, freedom of expression and sustainability when women are effectively silenced in and through the media, and where new technologies are used to undermine the human rights of women and women journalists,” noted the International Steering Committee (ISC) of GAMAG, a network of 500 media and media development, unions and civil society organisations across the globe.

The GAMAG-ISC, which held its first meeting in Geneva from 4-5 November 2014 under the auspices of UNESCO, said the right to communicate; access to information, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is integral to sustainable development. Currently, GAMAG said, “this issue is glaringly missing from the seventeen SDG’s and the 169 targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals next year.”

Research conducted by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) shows that women constitute a mere 24% of news sources. A global study by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) shows that women constitute 36% of reporters and a quarter of media decision-makers. A range of studies shows a growing gender gap in access to, and ownership of ICTs. New media is also fuelling new forms of violence against women and girls ranging from stalking and trolling to human trafficking.

Threats and violence against media workers in general are well-documented, especially with regard to deadly attacks, by organisations like the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF). But there is no group collecting data on security threats to women journalists globally. Attacks against female media workers are only reported anecdotally, if at all, by international media support organisations.

Provisions that GAMAG wants included in the SDG’s include:

  • Women’s equal and effective participation and freedom from violence in all areas of media decision-making and practice.
  • Women’s equal access to media ICTs and their benefits.
  • The right to safety and bodily integrity in the digitally mediated public sphere.
  • Fair and balanced gender portrayal and occupational representation of women in the media.
  • Sensitive, fair and rights-based coverage of violence against women and girls.
  • Mainstreaming of gender in media and ICT policy and training curricula.
  • Gender, media and information literacy training, education and campaigns.   

Launched after a watershed UNESCO and ISESCO -led conference on gender and the media in Bangkok in December 2013, GAMAG seeks to harness new opportunities, and address new challenges, for gender equality and women's empowerment in and through media in an information society context which has radically transformed media architectures.

The GAMAG-ISC is concerned that progress towards media that support gender equality and women’s rights objectives remains painfully slow. GAMAG will amplify and give visibility to existing key regional and global initiatives on gender and media to hasten the pace of change. Further, GAMAG will take action to ensure that women’s communication rights gain prominence in on-going Beijing+20 review events, the post-2015 debates and the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS)+10.

Priority actions identified by GAMAG include: 

  • Advocacy on women’s empowerment and gender equality in the media and through media to ensure better representation of women in the board rooms and behind editors’ desks.
  • Acting to better protect women journalists on and offline and on the frontline from violence and abuse. This will include gathering a solid foundation of data on violence against women in the media.
  • Developing and curating research, policies and best practices, as well as reporting guidelines for promoting gender responsive and aware media content and practice.
  • Gathering and sharing policies, content and good practices that advance gender equality in and through the media and ICTs.
  • Furthering research on women in the media.

The ISC agreed on working mechanisms, including regional and theme sub-committees on Youth; Research; Capacity Building and Training; Advocacy, Communications, Campaigning and Outreach; Media, ICT Policies, Content and Practice.

Bath’s Roman curse tablets added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register

Thu, 06/11/2014 - 10:07

The Roman curse tablets represent personal and private prayers of individuals inscribed on small sheets of lead or pewter and cast into the hot springs at Bath, UK. The tablets are believed to range in date from the 2nd to the late 4th century AD. Some are written in Old Roman Cursive and some in New Roman Cursive which was in use from the later 3rd century until the end of Roman rule in Britain. Some messages included magical words and symbols, or were written back to front to increase the curse's potency. Others were pierced with nails to achieve a similar result. Curses were sometimes rolled up and hidden under floors or in wall cavities. People wrote to the Roman goddess Sulis Minerva asking for revenge or for wrongs to be put right. 

UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Getachew Engida, who attended the inscription ceremony in Bath, highlighted in his remarks that in addition to being home to the valuable Roman Curse tablets, Bath’s historic quarters have been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1987. He further emphasized that the Roman vestiges have remained at the heart of the city’s development since their inception and can be considered to be among the most famous and important Roman remains north of the Alps. In addition, Mr Engida pointed out that it is precisely thanks to the Romans that the city of Bath flourished as a thermal spa since the 1st century AD and the natural hot springs have also made it possible to develop the city into an elegant spa city, famed in literature and art – a tradition that continues to the present. Bath attributes great importance to its status as a World Heritage site and the implementation of the eponymous convention: Bath is also part of a European group of spa cities that is preparing a World Heritage nomination as Great Spas of Europe, together with sites in the Czech Republic, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.

The Roman curse tablets offer also an insight into the extent of bilingualism in the British population under Rome. Unlike many classical sources, the tablets do not tell us of the lives of great men and women and are not great works of literature or philosophy. The Roman curse tablets from Bath are the earliest known surviving prayers to a deity in Britain. Some are pretty fierce, like the person who, seeking revenge for theft of a bronze vessel, asks that it be filled with the blood of the thief! Indeed, many of the collections contain surprising facts. The Romans didn't have police, but they did have something else that worked as a deterrent, the fear of the gods.

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 to guard against collective amnesia calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world ensuring their wide dissemination. The Programme vision is that the world's documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance. The Programme is thus intended to protect documentary heritage, and to help networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for the preservation of, and the access to, documentary and archival collections of valuable records.

UNESCO promotes records management for effective implementation of freedom of information right

Wed, 05/11/2014 - 17:15

The objective of the Colloquium was to highlight the role of records management as the backbone of a transparent and accountable government. Participants were presented with experiences and good practices from the rest of the world. The need to modernize the management of public information and data, including electronically, was strongly emphasized by the speakers of the colloquium.

In her presentation of the United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Corinna Zarek, the Attorney Advisor at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, stated, “The records and information that public administrations are creating are national assets that must be effectively managed and secured so that the public can be assured of the authenticity of the record.” “Public participation is crucial in any Open Data, Open Government, FOIA or other access to information issues. With Open Data, U.S. agencies are directed to prioritize release of data based, in part, on requests from the public,” she further added.

The event took place in the context when the Government of Morocco started to undertake a series of legislative reforms in a view to adopt an access to information law in line with its 2011 Constitution.

This activity was made possible thanks to the support of the Government of Finland.

Upholding Rule of Law is essential to end impunity for crimes against journalists

Wed, 05/11/2014 - 15:25

This was the theme of a panel discussion at the General Assembly on 3 November, under the theme: “Ending Impunity: Upholding the Rule of Law” was the title and focus of the event.

Participants included the diplomatic community, experts and civil society who gathered at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the first ever International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (2 November). The meeting was co-organized by UNESCO and the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, France, Greece and Tunisia to the United Nations

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through a video message, emphasised how a free and open press is part of the bedrock of democracy and development.

Yet in the last ten years, more than 700 journalists have been killed for simply doing their job, he regretted. And worst, nine out of ten cases go unpunished. As a result, criminals are emboldened.

Speaking on the Panle, Mr Maher Nasser, Head of the UN Department of Public Information, noted that most victims are local, covering local stories, and called for authorities worldwide to do better in ensuring that the perpetrators of attacks against journalists are held accountable.

Ambassador Michel Spinellis, Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN, stated that impunity is a threat to democracy. Speaking on behalf of the six co-sponsoring countries of the event, he underscored the recent actions taken by the UN Human Rights Council to address the lack of accountability for attacks against journalists.

Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Getachew Engida, concentrated on what more can be done concretely to support Governments in ending impunity. He highlighted: creating dedicated investigation units for crimes against journalists and human rights defenders; strengthening special prosecution offices and independent commission; bolstering preventive as well as protection measures; and providing trainings to prosecutors and judiciary regarding safety of journalists.

Mr Engida also underlined the UN Plan of Action for Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, spearheaded by UNESCO, which seeks to support Governments in their efforts and is today the global reference to catalyse stronger action against impunity.

As another important concrete measure, the Deputy Director-General called on Member States to voluntarily provide updated information on the judicial investigation of the killings of journalists to UNESCO.

Arguing that combatting impunity must be a priority, Mr Joel Simon, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), cautioned that we must not mistake awareness for progress and must define success in quantifiable terms.

He called Member States to action and quoted findings from a special report by CPJ, issued in October 2014, entitled The Road to Justice: Breaking the Cycle of Impunity in the Killing of Journalists. The numbers of crimes against journalists must start decreasing instead of growing into record highs, as in the last few years, in order for this International Day to have a meaning at all, he said.

Dr Agnes Callamard, Director of Global Freedom of Expression & Information, and Special Adviser to the President of Columbia University, spoke from the perspective of Rule of Law. She affirmed that rule ‘by’ law should not trump the rule ‘of’ law, and that ‘rule of law’ must serve the interest of justice.

A key component of combatting impunity is embedding the rule of law and responsible authorities into response and precautionary mechanisms. She said Columbia University will launch an award prize in March 2015 in recognition of legal practitioners who have strived for rulings in favour of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Ms Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, a foreign correspondent with Al-Arabiya News Channel and member of the Board of Directors of International Women’s Media Foundation, gave a strong personal account of the situation faced by journalists covering difficult issues. Non-state actors are an increasing threat, she warned, and elaborated on the challenges this poses to journalists.

During discussion, a connection was drawn with the new agenda for sustainable development in the post-2015. Participants acknowledged the importance of freedom of expression for sustainable development, and recognized that freedom of expression and its corollary media freedom, including the safety of journalists and ending impunity, are important indicators for the future goals.

Since freedom of expression, the safety of journalists and ending impunity have not been included as such in the proposed agenda to follow 2015, an important and actionable objective was identified for Member States to tackle before the next iteration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

UN action plan on journalists’ safety enters 2nd phase

Wed, 05/11/2014 - 13:13

The 3rd UN Inter-Agency meeting on the Action Plan involved over 100 participants, including six UN organizations.

Co-hosted by UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the event also included diplomats from Philippines, Pakistan, Austria, Honduras and Azerbaijan. A message was relayed by Iraq’s ambassador to UNESCO.

The sentiment of the meeting was expressed by African Union Commission's Habiba Mejri-Cheikh, who stated that “an attack on any one journalist must be pursued as an attack on all of us”.

Civil society groups, media and academics also took part, alongside representatives of the International Criminal Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and Dunja Mijatovic, rapporteur for freedom of the media at the OSCE.

The participants shared information on how, over 18 months, the UN Plan had stimulated new attention to journalists’ safety within the UN system, as well as within a range of countries including Pakistan, Nigeria, Tunisia, South Sudan, Nepal and Mexico.

Suggestions were voiced about strengthening work at the global level, and the need to localize international standards and processes at country level.

Calls were made to broaden participation in the Plan, by involving more UN bodies, courts, media owners and young people.

Emphasis was put on strengthening political will so that governments were sensitized to take the necessary steps and allocate budgets in order to ensure protection for journalists and an end to impunity for crimes against freedom of expression.

Another theme discussed in the meeting was the need for greater sharing of information and awareness-raising about the UN Plan and why societies needed to ensure safe conditions for journalism to flourish.

A statement from 23 civil society and professional groups reaffirmed support for the UN Plan, and recommended “a stronger strategic focus on engaging all stakeholders at domestic levels”.

A draft Implementation Review Report prepared for the conference will now be revised and circulated for comment.

UNESCO supports the revision of the Moroccan law on access to information

Tue, 04/11/2014 - 16:26

In 2011 the principle of freedom of information was included in the Article 27 of the new Constitution in Morocco, and on 26 March 2013 the Government published the related draft law. A newly reviewed draft law N° 31-13 was published in August 2014.

A one-day workshop, which took place on 30 October in Rabat, focused on the reading of the draft law N° 31-13 on the right to access information. It gathered representatives from the Moroccan ministries, experts, academics, civil society organizations and journalists to study and comment on the new draft law and to ensure that it meets their requirements as well as the international standards.

The workshop was structured in two panels:

  • the first one studied the 31-13 draft law, Moroccan constitution and international standards; and
  • the second one focused on an in-depth analysis of the new draft law regarding human rights legislation, good governance and transparency.

Salah Eddine Jamal, Director in charge of the modernization of the public administration at the Ministry of public function and modernization of administration, expressed the willingness of the government to take into account civil society’s recommendations on the draft law.

Toby Mendel, Director of the Center of Law and Democracy, shared with the audience the recommendations highlighting the importance of reducing the exceptions in requests for information made by citizens, creating an independent commission for mediation and removing admissibility conditions in formulating information requests.

By promoting a better understanding of the international principles of the right to access public information in Morocco, UNESCO encourages the adoption of a law that helps the Moroccan citizens and Government to take further steps in the democratic transition of the country.

As a follow-up to this workshop, UNESCO will support a series of meetings with the members of the Moroccan parliament to present FOI key principles with recommendations on the draft law No 31-13 aligned with the international standards.

These activities have been made possible thanks to the support of the Government of Finland.

Taking stock of the state of the media in Swaziland

Tue, 04/11/2014 - 14:04

 Participants included executive staff from several key media outlets including The Swazi Observer, The Times of Swaziland, Independent News and Voice of the Church, the chairpersons of Swaziland’s main professional associations such as the National Association of Journalists, Editors Forum, the Swaziland Press Club and the Media Workers Union, and representatives of key civil society organizations including the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Lawyers for Human Rights, as well as journalism education institutions.

The Government was represented by Annelisa Stoffels, Acting Director of the Information and Media Development Department at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.    

The purpose of the project, as explained by UNESCO MDI Coordinator Saorla McCabe who travelled to Swaziland for the meeting, is to “engage national stakeholders in a process of constructive dialogue and self-reflection in order to identify the key media development priorities and discuss the most appropriate ways of addressing them.”

There was a wide consensus among participants about the utility of such a study in the Swazi context. Stoffels told the assembly that “the study comes at the right time”, explaining that “it will serve as we redraft the Bills [Books and Newspapers (Amendment) Draft Bill 2007 and Broadcasting Draft Bill 2007] before they go to Parliament.” Alec Lushaba, Chairperson of MISA Swaziland, stated the study would provide a “mirror of the media landscape” enabling the range of stakeholders involved to see where they stand and empower them to act upon the findings in order to together improve the situation of the media in the country.

In an interview at the end of the meeting, Lomcebo Dlamini, National Director of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), said: “This is an exciting project. As civil society stakeholders we are looking forward to the findings and to the consultation. We do believe that as Swaziland moves towards being more democratic and more understanding of issues of human rights, this will also generate a better understanding of the role of the media can play. Hence the need to strengthen the media in those areas where the research reveals gaps.”

Mary da Silva, Member of NGO Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland), said the study could encounter some challenges, but would still be “very valuable for all of us, all stakeholders, opening up information sharing on the media environment.” 

Representatives of journalism training institutions attending the meeting similarly perceived the study as providing a window of opportunity. Kemmonye Kamodi, Head of the Faculty of Communication at the Limkokwing University, expressed the wish that “at the end of this study, Government will rethink its sponsorship of journalism students”, following the suspension of scholarships for journalism students some years ago.

“As much as there may be challenges between Government and journalism, we still need journalists that are well trained so that they can show their professionalism when applying their journalism skills.”

Kamodi went on to say that she hoped that the recommendations of the MDI assessment would blend into the Swaziland Vision 2022, which spells out a number of development objectives to be achieved by Swaziland by 2022, and its accompanying National Development Strategy.

Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, lead researcher for the study and National Director of MISA Swaziland, explained that it was a UNESCO MDI report on Mozambique that inspired him to seek UNESCO’s support in launching a similar study in Swaziland. “Last year when surfing the Net I came across the Mozambique report. After reading it, I saw an opportunity for Swaziland”, said Hlatshwayo. He then spelled out his expectations regarding the study: “It will help the government understand what is wrong with the media situation in the country and will enable us to lobby from an informed position. The key strength of the MDI tool is that it is holistic, covering every aspect of media development.”

A similar view was expressed by Lomcebo Dlamini, SCCCO National Director. “This study comes at a time when there are a lot of issues at stake within our media landscape. There are issues with respect to freedom of expression, where our media are not free to delve into the issues that they need to delve into as they analyze what is happening in the country. There are issues in terms of antiquated legislation and a regulatory framework that is not suited for the needs of the media at this time. What is particularly exciting about it this project is that it brings together the various elements that need the media to work on. It is multi-faceted, multi-layered and inclusive of various stakeholders.”

The round table followed a two-day workshop with the members of the research team to define the modalities of application of the MDIs in the country. The project, which will be inclusive and participatory, will be based on a combination of research methods, including desk-based research, data collection and wide-ranging consultations. It is expected to be completed by May 2015.

The MDIs were endorsed in 2008 by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication. MDI-based assessments have to date been completed in 13 countries and are ongoing in another 20 countries across all regions.

Legal experts discuss frameworks to tackle impunity

Tue, 04/11/2014 - 11:23

The event was organized by the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield, and the European Lawyer’s Union.  Participants included senior representatives of the European Court of Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Pan African Lawyers Union.

Among the speakers were Judge Manuel Ventura Robles from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion; and James Stewart the deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

Civil society representatives and academic experts were part of the pioneering discussion, which followed the 2 November inaugural International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalism. It was tweeted under the hashtag #dialogprotectjournos.

Participants dissected how states could better implement their obligations to protect freedom of expression through applying universal standards, improving legal frameworks and sharing cross-national experiences.

A consistent theme was that there are many legal instruments at global and regional level which can provide protection and justice for journalists under attack, but these mechanisms need to be publicized within individual countries.

An analysis of several of the instruments is available in a background paper prepared for the seminar by law professor Sejal Parmar.

UNESCO/IFAP expert meeting endorses an action plan for a multilingual cyberspace

Tue, 04/11/2014 - 09:45

This major event, held at UNESCO’s Paris-based Headquarters, was organized by UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division and the Information for All Programme (IFAP), in cooperation with the Government of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra (Russian Federation), the Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO, the Interregional Library Cooperation Centre (Russian Federation) and the Russian Committee of the Information for All Programme.

A selection of national and regional successes and lessons from governmental, academic, public-private partnerships and civil society settings provided a rich body of relevant policies and practices that informed the discussions. “By drawing inspiration from these case studies, generalizing and adapting them, we were able to identify critical success elements and benefit from useful insights that assisted us in gaining clarity on the way forward and subsequently formulating the meeting’s recommendations and action plan”, said Ms Chafica Haddad, Chair of the Intergovernmental IFAP Council.

In particular, the endorsed action plan and recommendations will:

  • support national policy development and the adoption of strategies for promoting language survival in cyberspace, language learning and universal access to cyberspace;
  • promote the development and dissemination of technological solutions, best practices and standards that facilitate access to multilingual content, including automatic translation and intelligent linguistic systems; and
  • strengthening multi-stakeholder international cooperation and partnerships to support capacity building and access to resources.

The experts elaborated on concrete proposals for upscaling the existing Atlas of Languages in Danger towards a UNESCO World Atlas of Languages. It is expected that a new online platform will be used for monitoring and promoting most worlds’ languages as well as for providing an online space for relevant language institutions of UNESCO’s Member States to share their e-content on languages using open and inclusive technological solutions.

At the closing session, the representative of the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Boyan Radoykov, expressed full satisfaction with the outcomes of the meeting and underscored: “This extremely rich and productive meeting of experts highlighted the critical role of linguistic diversity and the importance of its advancement in cyberspace for ensuring universal access to information and for supporting the creation of equitable and inclusive knowledge societies, which are the key to our common sustainable future.”

Other post-conference plans discussed during the meeting included the proposed organization of a World Summit on Multilingualism.

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.

Training Tunisian journalists on election reporting

Mon, 03/11/2014 - 16:42

Thirty-six media professionals benefited from the training, which was conducted in three stations of the public service network: Radio Sfax, Radio Monastir and Radio Tunis Chaîne Internationale (RTCI),  from 9 to 17 October 2014.

Throughout the training, participants mostly raised issues related to the practical implementation of the rules, which they assimilated rather well. How to grant equal speaking time to several parties running for elections? How to resist more or less direct pressure from candidates and their entourage? How to calculate the time allocated to experts and observers whose analyses seem to be partisan? How to increase female presence on the air while political parties, in most cases, choose male representatives as spokespersons?

“When I call a party to ask for an interview with the number two on the list (necessarily a woman), I am told that only the number one (always a man) is authorized to speak on behalf of the list,” said one of the participants, discouraged by this experience.

Participants also raised the following issues: addressing the risk of violence associated with terrorism that is present in all minds, choosing a trustful source of information, communicating on the day of elections, reporting on incidents related to the vote, etc.

The role to be played by the public service in the Tunisian media landscape was another concern expressed by participants. Tunisian journalists are puzzled by freedom and responsiveness of private stations in comparison with the bureaucracy and the institutional tone of the Tunisian National Radio. The journalistic code of ethics and a lack of sanctions for its non-respect is another challenge that Tunisian media are facing.

Journalists working for RTCI sounded confident in relation to the rules to be applied while reporting on elections. Their main difficulty consists in the fact that their radio station is French-speaking. Some parties do not have speakers in this language, and it is also difficult to make a vox pop in French only, without discriminating some people and modifying the tone of their responses. “Can we, in this case, simultaneously translate the interview into Arabic?” asked one of the participants.

The result of this training session has been rather encouraging: the rules allowing fair coverage of the election campaign have been well integrated by participating journalists, although their implementation within the current political landscape in Tunisia represents a real challenge. Participants appreciated the opportunity to speak about concrete problems that can occur in their daily work and the ways to address them. “This training will enable us to cover the upcoming presidential and municipal elections in a more confident way,” they said.

This project, aimed at training Tunisian public media during the election period, has been supported by the Republic of Finland.

Infographic from Mexico wins contest to raise awareness on ending impunity

Mon, 03/11/2014 - 09:41

That is part of the reasoning for UNESCO to partner with online community platform for data visualization, in an infographics competition to raise awareness of the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November 2014.

The competition also drew in a new segment of the public to raise awareness on the dangers of impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers. UNESCO received over 130 submissions in five different languages, all of exceptional quality.

The winning infographic, submitted by young journalists Gabriel Orihuela, Elizabeth Ortiz, and graphic designer José Juan González Morales from Mexico, was chosen for its clear depiction of the dangers journalists face and the detrimental effects of impunity.

Since the quality of submissions was very high, nineteen other entries were selected for Honourable Mention for their design, creativity, and narrative skills.

The new UNESCO Director-General's Report on Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity served as the basis for the infographics. Designers were tasked to visualize the data of the report in an educative manner yet enables easy sharing on social media as well as raising public awareness of this serious issue.

The high amount of submissions clearly shows that the issues of impunity and safety of journalists which are crucial to the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression are issues close to many people.

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