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IFJ welcomes call for greater protection of media at major conference in Doha

(IFJ/IFEX) - 25 January 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the recommendations of an international conference on the protection of journalists which took place in Doha, Qatar on 22-23 January, saying they will boost the campaign to press governments on their responsibility to protect journalists.

The conference agreed to submit to the UN General Assembly a set of recommendations which emphasize the need to vigorously enforce existing legal instruments, binding national authorities to prevent and punish violence against journalists.

"We welcome this initiative and recommendations which are consistent with the IFJ long-standing position on media protection," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha, one of the key speakers at the conference. "We believe that the international community has enough tools in its arsenal to help protect journalists and we are delighted that other members of the press freedom community share our view."

The Doha conference, organised by the Qatari National Committee for Human Rights (QNCHR), brought together hundreds of delegates from press freedom organisations, including 13 IFJ unions from Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Spain, Brazil, Morocco, Sudan, Mauritania and Croatia, as well as two of its regional groups, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the Federation of Latin American and Caribbean Journalists (FEPALC).

The IFJ successfully argued that the main focus should be on securing genuine implementation of international legal provisions for the protection of journalists, instead of pushing for a new convention or the introduction of an internationally recognised emblem for journalists. In this regard, the conference urged the United Nations and its specialized agencies to implement the Action Plan on the safety of journalists, which was agreed to at the UNESCO conference held last September in Paris.

Participants also requested that the UN develop new strategies to promote states' compliance with their obligations, which should be expanded to include both attacks on journalists and other violations of their rights, such as forced disappearances, arrests and kidnappings, as well as the creation of a special unit in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to follow up media cases.

There were other recommendations to states, calling for credible measures to fight impunity for crime against journalists and the right of their families to receive compensation, as well as the need for donors to link aid assistance to countries' record on media protection.

The conference further requested that news organisations provide adequate safety training and all appropriate support, including protection equipment and trauma counsel, to their staff. Journalists are responsible for their personal safety and need to develop awareness of the environment they work in, including military practices.

The IFJ, which called on the UN to act following publication of its annual list of journalists and media staff killed in 2011, says that these recommendations represent an opportunity to make the safety of journalists a reality.

"Media protection has been on the back burner for years now and we hope that the UN will adopt these recommendations as a springboard to concrete action," added Boumelha.

The recommendations of the conference will be presented to the UN General Assembly in New York by a delegation made up of representatives of the IFJ, its regional groups in Latin America (FEPALC) and Africa (FAJ), its union in the Philippines, the Federation of Arab Journalists and the Press Emblem Campaign led by the Qatari National Committee for Human Rights.

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