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Global media back call for UN to adopt convention on safety of journalists

By Seb Tanti Burlo.

A coalition involving the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), media industry groups and press freedom campaigners called for a dedicated international instrument to enhance the protection of journalists during the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva.

“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,” said Philippe Leruth, the President of IFJ which represents 600,000 media professionals worldwide.

The organisation made it clear it wanted to fight against impunity to intensify. Last year, on average, two journalists were killed every single week – yet impunity for crimes against journalists remains at 90%.

Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in Malta in October 2017, in a car bomb a few metres away from her home. Those who commissioned her death remain free.

The UN faced a united call to take action to tackle impunity by adopting a Convention on the safety and 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 addressing gaps in international law, broadening the protection of those in the field and quicker measures for redress.

The Convention not only includes incontrovertible obligations such as 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 and measures to address the misuse national security to hinder the work of journalists through arbitrary detention.

It also calls for 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 the call was important for the UN HRC to prioritise the protection of journalists and tackling impunity. “If impunity is allowed to go unchallenged, if journalists self-censor, if societies are deprived of information then media freedom and democracy suffer”.

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