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Press groups call on UN to adopt Convention on journalists' safety

A journalist reacts to tear gas fired by the police during a
A journalist reacts to tear gas fired by the police during a "Yellow Vests" protest in Paris, France, 8 December 2018

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 19 March 2019.

Representatives from governments in every continent today joined the IFJ, journalists' unions, editors groups, public broadcasters and media organisations in a united call for the United Nations to take action to tackle impunity by adopting a Convention on the safety and protection of journalists.

Senior lecturer Carmen Draghici from the University of London and author of the Convention presented the text and answered legal issues.

The joint call came during the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Last year, on average, two journalists were killed every single week - yet impunity for crimes against journalists remains at 90%. Now a coalition involving the IFJ, media industry groups and press freedom campaigners have taken the demand for action to the heart of the UN's Human Rights Council.

At an event organised by the IFJ, representatives from the European Broadcasting Union, International Press Institute, UNI-MEI and Al-Jazeera joined journalists' unions from Europe and the Middle East and governments from every corner of the globe in urging the international community to adopt a dedicated international instrument to enhance the protection of journalists.

The Convention on the Protection and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals seeks to provide greater safeguards for media workers by:

. Rectifying a gap in international law for binding norms establishing safeguards for media workers specifically
. Including not only journalists, but all the media professionals who are at risk every day, from the cameramen to the drivers, interpreters etc
. Allowing denunciations of systematic violations by persons other than the direct victims, effectively combating self-censorship
. Providing for interim measures and an expedited procedure in case of alleged violations.

The Convention not only includes incontrovertible obligations such as the protection of journalists against attacks on their life, arbitrary arrest or forced disappearances, but also others so far found only in soft law, like the obligation

. to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources;
. not to misuse national security to hinder the work of journalists through arbitrary detention;
. to conduct an effective investigation where crimes against journalists have been committed, capable of bringing to justice not only the executors, but also the moral authors of crimes.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "Today's event was an important step in building support for the adoption of the Convention and more importantly putting action to protect journalists and tackle impunity higher up the agenda of the Human Rights Council. If impunity is allowed to go unchallenged, if journalists self-censor, if societies are deprived of information, then media freedom and democracy suffer".

IFJ President, Philippe Leruth, said: "The International Federation of Journalists wants the fight against impunity to intensify. The common law which forbids killing and the international protection of civilians in conflict zones fail to protect journalists because they don't consider journalists as specific targets. When a journalist is murdered a disturbing voice is silenced but also the whole press as self-censorship increases: you don't find heroes to take over the task of the murdered journalist".

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