Following its 60th Bureau meeting last week, the IPDC is set to reinforce its monitoring and reporting system on journalists’ safety. This is a unique mechanism which enables UNESCO to follow up on cases such as the killing of de Borba with the ultimate objective of ending impunity for his killers and those involved in other murders of journalists.
Since 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO is requested to report to the IPDC Council on the status of safety and impunity. For this, each Member State concerned with the killing of a journalist is requested voluntarily to inform UNESCO on the status of the investigations carried out, with UNESCO keeping track until such time as the case is resolved. To strengthen this process, the IPDC Bureau made three special allocations of funds:
- A sum of US$ 20,000 for the publication and dissemination of a booklet explaining IPDC’s monitoring and reporting mechanism on the safety of journalists to Member States, UN bodies, civil society, NGOs, human rights bodies, and media professionals.
- An additional allocation of US$ 30,000 made for compiling and sharing of best practices in monitoring, reporting and promoting the safety of journalists, as a follow-up to the IPDC-supported International Conference ‘News Organizations standing up for the safety of media professionals’ (Paris, 5 February 2016).
- An amount of US$ 30,000 for the application of UNESCO’s Journalists’ Safety Indicators (JSIs), which enable an assessment of journalists’ safety at national level and of the follow-up given to crimes committed against them.
- For providing capacity-building in Member States to improve their national monitoring systems, $20 000 for a pilot project in a selected country.
The Bureau also requested the IPDC Secretariat to prepare an action plan to further bolster IPDC’s role in tackling impunity, and to present this at the next IPDC Council session in November.
In reaching its decisions, the Bureau meeting was informed by a report from independent media expert, Silvia Chocarro Marcesse, who presented an analytical paper on the IPDC’s role in promoting the safety of journalists.
“Never has the UN advanced so much on the issue of journalistic safety in so little time as in recent years,” said Chocarro Marcesse. “There is momentum. High expectations are placed on the UN … and on UNESCO as the lead agency on the promotion of the safety of journalists”. The analytical paper includes concrete recommendations on how IPDC can contribute to meeting those expectations.
A significant increase has already been observed in the response rate of Member States to the Director-General’s requests for information - from 16 out of 57 countries (28%) in 2014 to 27 out of 57 (47%) countries last year, indicating increased attention being given by Member States to IPDC’s monitoring mechanism.
The issue of populations on the move has been highlighted by the Syrian exodus and its impact on Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Europe, but is also very evident in the Americas, in East African countries, and in Afghanistan, Iraq and India amongst others.
In this context, untrained reporters are failing to pick up the relevance of differences between the terms “migrants”, “asylum-seekers” and “refugees”. But “words matter”, observed Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees.
Another result of unprepared journalists is that the media have often reduced refugees to an image where they are either a (male) threat or a group of victims, according to Dutch academic, Jacco van Sterkenburg.
There is a similarity between these two approaches, in his view. They both create a “us and them” which reveals differences at the expense of coverage of shared human issues amongst local residents and newcomers.
Across all countries, “media have been manipulated by political leaders, too often accepting their outrageous statements” added Aidan White, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network which has recently published “Moving Stories”, an international review of how media cover migration.
Furthermore, “training is very much needed” noted Dr. Guita Hourani, Director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at Notre Dame University (Lebanon), both for journalists and for editors, and not only on journalism ethics but also on how to challenge intolerance in the political rhetoric and on how to contextualize events.
Turkish academic Nevin Yildiz, from Hacettepe University, proposed that women refugees should be given priority attention, so that through them other women can be approached and allowed to express themselves, “because women’s visibility is very limited”.
The experts agreed that newsrooms lack capacity to cope with such an unprecedented situation, and that more means are needed to report on this issue appropriately.
Fleming called for specialist reporters on refugees, as well as complementary UN social media coverage, to promote public understanding of a complex story.
“Support is also needed for refugee media, and for networks of refugee journalists, so that refugees themselves can tell their own story” added Mogens Bjerregard, IPDC Bureau Member for Denmark.
White concluded that “migration is part of the human condition, our nations are built on migration” – hence the need to contextualize and focus on reasons.
The IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development. The Programme not only provides support for media development projects but also stimulates international debate on important media-related issues. After the debate, the IPDC Bureau agreed on follow-up action to promote best practices of professional reporting on this issue and high ethical standards in this field.
In addition, six new special projects will be launched in areas such as the safety of journalists, combatting the radicalization of youth through the media and improving the media coverage of migration and refugees.
From improving journalists’ capacity for election coverage in Chad to conducting policy reform on community media in Nepal, the new set of IPDC-supported projects addresses a wide range of issues, with the most recurrent being the safety of journalists, capacity building for community media, coverage of elections, media self-regulation, media law/policy reform and access to information.
Most projects had important gender-sensitive components – a clear response to the IPDC’s implementation of a gender checklist in project submission.
The IPDC bureau meeting, chaired by Ms. Albana Shala, also decided to consolidate the programme’s flagship special initiatives, including by enhancing the IPDC’s unique monitoring and reporting system on the safety of journalists and impunity issues.
In this regard, the meeting, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, underscored the need for the IPDC to provide opportunities for Member States to pilot national protection and reporting mechanisms on safety, along with conducting new national assessments based on the Journalism Safety Indicators (JSIs).
The Bureau members also stressed follow-up action in the areas of combatting radicalization and improving coverage of refugee-related issues.
Algeria, Bangladesh, Peru, Poland, Denmark, Niger, Ghana and the Netherlands make up the members of the 2015-2016 Bureau, as elected by the 39 Member State IPDC Council in November 2014.
The 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 more than US$ 106 million to 1,800 media development projects in 140 countries.
Against this backdrop, the Bureau of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which met from 17 to 18 March in Paris, discussed the need for a shift from gender-sensitivity to gender transformation in project support and implementation.
This discussion underscores the IPDC’s commitment to tackling the striking inequalities between men and women’s representation in the media.
By beginning such a process of reflection, the IPDC, an intergovernmental body dedicated to promoting media development, will be seeking to contribute towards realizing the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN General Assembly last September.
IPDC already requires all applications for funding to meet gender-awareness criteria, including explicitly stating the number of female versus male beneficiaries. It also supports the application of UNESCO’s Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (GSIM) to measure the degree of gender equality in both the operations and content of selected media outlets around the world.
The shift from mere gender sensitivity to gender transformation promises to move the IPDC towards an unequivocal embrace of UNESCO’s Global Priority Gender Equality. Whereas gender sensitivity only takes into account gender differentials, gender transformation will proactively promote projects that directly challenge the gender inequalities observed.
An increase in the number of gender-transformative projects supported by the IPDC was already observed in recent years, with their number rising from 14 percent of projects in 2014 to 21 percent in 2015.
The IPDC Bureau decision to consider shifting towards gender transformation places gender equality and women’s empowerment at the centre of its media development agenda.
Additionally, the Bureau will hold a debate on “Media and Migration”, which will be informed by the latest research on how the media are portraying the current refugee crisis across traditional and social media platforms. It will host leading experts, including those from media research institutions, UN agencies and academia. The debate has been organized as a response to this pressing issue, to clarify the roles of traditional and social media outlets in such an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and provide the IPDC Bureau with expert insight for future action.
The Bureau meeting will also discuss practical ways to further develop its unique UN monitoring mechanism on the safety of journalists and impunity issues.
Finally, the IPDC Bureau shall discuss future focus and priority areas for the Programme.
Algeria, Bangladesh, Peru, Poland, Denmark, Niger, Ghana and the Netherlands make up the members of the 2015-16 Bureau, as elected by the 39 Member State IPDC Council in November 2014.
The 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 more than US$ 105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in 140 countries.
Against the backdrop of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimate of over four million registered refugees, the question of the role of the media in ameliorating this crisis has come under increasing scrutiny, with the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) now scheduling what promises to be an enlightening and thought-provoking debate on the subject during the 60th session of the IPDC Bureau, which starts tomorrow at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
The debate will offer an opportunity for diverse voices to be heard on the unfolding migrant crisis and the role of the media in sensitively and authoritatively covering its complex impacts across societies.
The IPDC’s contribution to the debate is not new. It reflects an abiding concern that recently found expression in a syllabus on reporting migration, with a focus on refugees. This syllabus is one of several in a publication titled Teaching Journalism for Sustainable Development: New Syllabi.
The debate, scheduled for the 18th of March and to be moderated by the IPDC Chair Albana Shala, will feature a broad range of participants, including those from humanitarian groups, media organisations, and academia.
- Melissa Fleming, Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
- Guita Hourani, Director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center, Notre Dame University, Lebanon.
- Nevin Yildiz Tahincioglu, Hacettepe University, Ankara, contributor to the recent report “Migration: Global Report on Journalism’s Biggest Test in 2015”.
- Jacco van Sterkenburg, Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture, Netherlands.
- Aidan White, Ethical Journalism Network, editor of the report “Migration: Global Report on Journalism’s Biggest Test in 2015”.
The training explored investigative journalism in the digital age, and is supported by UNESCO’s Cluster Office for the Caribbean, and the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). It is being executed in partnership with the largest global association of public service broadcasters, the Public Media Alliance, as well as the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) and the Caribbean Production Training Centre (CPTC).
Speaking at the launch of the three-day workshop, UNESCO’s Advisor for Communication and Information, Isabel Viera, urged journalists to uphold the rights of freedom of the press and freedom of information as they are foundations for protecting all other human rights.
She reminded the journalists that, “the role the media can play as a watchdog is important for democracy, and it is for this reason that UNESCO fully supports initiatives like this Caribbean workshop that can enhance the investigative skills of journalists, throughout the world”. “This workshop will also enable and enhance the exchange of good practices and networking in investigative journalism throughout the Caribbean,” she added.
The revolutionary impact of social media on the work of investigative journalists was a key feature of the training. The journalists, who hailed from 11 countries across the Caribbean region, had hands-on exposure to issues of digital literacy to assist them in cultivating online sources and new methods of message delivery on social media networks. Key note speaker at the launch was Dr Marcia Forbes, who is a Jamaican scholar. Dr Forbes cautioned journalists to be professional in the use of the media in the digital age, especially social media.
The workshop also covered topics such as environmental databases, use of spreadsheets and numbers, freedom of information acts and data analysis. It will be followed by a five-week online course.
The training, delivered mainly by Professor Brant Houston, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois, focused on best practices in the use of data and digital tools to uncover stories that can be a catalyst for social change. The online course that will follow the workshop will be also conducted by Professor Houston.
Steffon Campbell, a lecturer at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies, served as a facilitator for the training workshop.
Jabari Fraser, a broadcast journalist with CCN TV6 in Trinidad and Tobago, said, “Hopefully I can take the skills I gather here back to Trinidad and Tobago to do some good work.”
Dr George Nyabuga, the lead researcher highlighted the salient elements of the report. The report is divided into categories of key indicators and provides an overview of the safety situation of journalists in Kenya. Participants were given an opportunity to provide their feedback on core elements and issues on the safety of journalists in Kenya, including the protection systems in place, the important actors or actions described in the report, and the greatest challenges that journalists face in Kenya. One such challenge that came up during the meeting relates to coordination. According to Mr Robert Wanjala, Programme Officer at Article 19, "The media has no coordinated mechanism to advocate and mitigate on issues related to safety of journalists in Kenya. It is therefore important for the Kenya Media Working Group to lobby and establish the necessary structures to help mitigate this issues."
The Journalists’ Safety Indicators further identify the context of safety and the responsibility of various actors and institutions in addressing the issue of journalists’ safety in the country. Ms Akademia Wandibba, National Officer at Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) highlighted the importance of the report to "capture regional instruments related to safety of journalists such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights for Africa." This she said, will help enhance accountability of various actors in the media sector and thus ensure that necessary measures are taken on issues related safety and security of journalist in Kenya.
Participants also had an opportunity to identify best practices to be supported, but also actions or institutions that are clearly lacking that can help improve safety of journalists in Kenya. One such gap identified, was for an established mechanism that would address issues of gender violence against women journalists in Kenya.
Priority follow-up actions were also identified such as the need for a multi-sectorial approach to coordinate national activities on safety of journalists and the need for concerted efforts to increase awareness of the existing instruments on safety of journalist.
The workshop was attended by 17 representatives (11 men and 6 women) from African Media Initiative (AMI), Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), The University of Nairobi, Amnesty International, Article 19, Kenya Union of Journalist (KUJ), Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Association of Freelance Journalists, Association of Bloggers, Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), and Twaweza Communications.
The UNESCO Journalists' Safety Indicators is developed within the context of the endorsement of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. It serves the purpose of pinpointing significant matters that show, or impact upon, the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. It also allows for mapping of key features that can help assess the extent to which journalists are able to carry out their work under safe conditions, and determine whether adequate follow-up is given to crimes committed against them.
This activity falls within the efforts of UNESCO to "promote an enabling environment for freedom of expression, press freedom and journalistic safety in Kenya" and is funded by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Programme on Development of Communication (IPDC). IPDC is multilateral forum in the UN system that not only provides support for media projects but also seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.
After a rich debate on media’s role in securing safety of journalists and ending impunity among media leaders from 51 countries and six continents, IPDC Chair, Ms. Albana Shala, presented IPDC ‘s concrete action in this field both at normative and operational levels and called for the reinforcement of the Programme “so that more can be done to protect journalists”. She also urged Member States to increase reporting levels on the safety of journalists in their respective countries by ensuring that the relevant institutions share information with IPDC which tracks progress in this area.
Australia, Austria, Finland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States of America, the Open Society Foundations and Al Jazeera supported the event. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the International Press Institute (IPI), the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) and the World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC) participated in the Conference and expressed commitment for follow-up action.
The IPDC Bureau, which will be meeting on 17-18 March 2016, will be considering a series of follow-up initiatives in this area, including the strengthening of IPDC’s monitoring and reporting mechanism on the safety of journalists and impunity issues.