ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE SAFETY OF JOURNALISTS

11 June 2014

The Human Rights Council this morning held a panel discussion on the safety of journalists to identify challenges and good practices to ensure the safety of journalists and to promote a better understanding of relevant international human rights norms and standards.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her opening remarks said that sound, bold and independent journalism was vital in any democratic society.  The safety of journalists was simply essential to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all, as well as the right to development.  However, more than 1,000 journalists had been killed since 1992 as a direct result of their profession.  Among the deadliest years were 2012 and 2013, and at least 15 had been killed since the start of this year.  In many States, the perpetrators could virtually count on impunity.  The international legal framework for the protection of journalists was in place.  States were urged to approach the issue under discussion from this human rights perspective, and to protect journalists and other media workers in the broadest sense. 

Ghida Fakhry, journalist and panel moderator, said that journalism was a pillar of a modern society, and also a human rights pillar.  It sometimes came with a very high price tag and was a risky business in many parts of the world, as highlighted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her opening remarks.  The purpose of the panel today was to identify best practices to ensure the safety of journalists and to discuss their implementation: what States, international organizations and the Human Rights Council could do, but also what journalists themselves could do to mitigate the risks.  Another key question for debate was who a journalist was today.

Frank Smyth, Journalist and Senior Advisor for Journalist Security at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that more needed to be done to protect journalists.  The greatest threat to the safety of journalists was unsolved murders: two out of three of all journalists killed were murdered and no one was prosecuted at all.  This was the issue that needed to be addressed and impunity for murders of journalists and safety of journalists must be connected.  Concrete steps must be taken to address murders, and to do so, more transparency was needed as was an adequate and due judicial process.

Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said UNESCO had developed a plan for the safety of journalists, but this plan was unfortunately still on paper while impunity remained the name of the game.  In order to implement the plan, real political commitment from leaders as well as adjustments in the legal system were needed.  Concerning the need for transparency and accountability, Mr. Engida said that UNESCO actively sought information from its Member States, and stressed the limitations of a United Nations organization which did not have law enforcement capacities.
 
Dunja Mijatovic, Representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Freedom of the Media, said that it was necessary to find ways of engaging more and to open the doors where the doors were closed when it came to impunity.  The safety of journalists was extremely important.  There was a need for a stronger voice when it came to condemning those countries that were not doing what they should be doing.

Abeer Saasy, Journalist and Vice-President of the Syndicate of Journalists of Egypt, stressed the difficulties in defining ‘journalists’, while noting that the idea of the profession was informing.  The issue was not whether to put the badge of being a journalist or not, as this could lead to targeting.  In the Middle East, 90 per cent of murdered journalists had been shot in the head or tortured before death.  Addressing the situation of local journalists and not only international journalists was also important, as they lived in those difficult areas and needed protection. 

Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that while it was true that all individuals around the world had the same rights and deserved the same protection, some individuals faced special danger and risk and deserved special protection.   The same way the United Nations had a Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the moment was right for a United Nations declaration on journalists.  Every single State should have an emergency mechanism in place for human rights defenders and journalists.   

During the discussion, speakers stressed the value of the contribution of the media and journalists to democracy.  Participants called on States to ensure accountability by investigating attacks and crimes against journalists and bringing perpetrators to justice.  Some delegations reaffirmed the need to ensure the legal and physical safety of journalists from attacks by security forces and non-State actors and inquired about good practices in this regard.  While the digital age had brought unlimited opportunities for dissemination of information, it had also opened up the media to new forms of vulnerability and interference and this required new ways of thinking to keep journalists safe.  Speakers also underlined the need for political will, as well as a conducive legislative framework for the protection of journalists.  Delegations shared information about different measures undertaken in their countries, ranging from legislative measures, to public information and awareness, and emergency protection mechanisms.  

Speaking in the discussion were the European Union, Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Russia (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization), Russia, Austria, Morocco, Brazil, Estonia, Tunisia, Montenegro, Ecuador, Colombia, Algeria, Slovenia, Mexico, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Organisation international de la Francophonie, United States, Poland, France, Greece, India, China, Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Pakistan.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Article XIX, International Federation of Journalists, Press Emblem Campaign, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Eastern Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, and International Humanist and Ethical Union.
         
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  At 12.30 p.m., the Council will resume its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, to be followed by a clustered interactive dialogue with the mandate holders on violence against women, its causes and consequences and on extreme poverty and human rights.

Opening Statements

BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, President of the Human Rights Council, said that a panel discussion on the issue of the safety of journalists would be held this morning.  The Human Rights Council had expressed deep concern at the frequent violations of the human rights of journalists taking the form of murder, torture, enforced disappearances, intimidation and harassment, among others, aimed at making the work of journalists difficult.  The Council had decided to convene at its twenty-sixth session a panel discussion, focused on the conclusions of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights related to the safety of journalists.

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in an opening statement said that sound, bold and independent journalism was vital in any democratic society.  It ensured transparency and accountability in the conduct of public affairs and other matters of public interest, and was the lifeblood that fuelled the full and informed participation of all individuals in political life and decision making processes.  The safety of journalists was simply essential to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all, as well as the right to development.  However, more than 1,000 journalists had been killed since 1992 as a direct result of their profession.  Among the deadliest years were 2012 and 2013, and at least 15 journalists had been killed since the start of this year.  In many States, the perpetrators could virtually count on impunity.  Many more journalists had faced violence, harassment and intimidation, including abduction, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, expulsion, illegal surveillance, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and sexual violence against women journalists.  They had been tried on spurious grounds such as espionage, threats to national security or alleged bias.
In recent years, there had been increased international awareness of the frequency with which journalists were attacked because of their work, and the need to ensure greater protection.  The Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council had adopted resolutions condemning attacks against journalists and called upon all States to act on their legal obligations to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists, so that they could perform their work independently and without undue interference.  As requested by the Council, the Office presented at the Council’s twenty-fourth session a report on good practices in the protection of journalists, including the prevention of attacks and the fight against impunity.  Today’s panel discussion, it was hoped, would be a platform to share experiences and ideas about how best to put those key points into practice.  The international legal framework for the protection of journalists was in place.  It now had to be implemented at the national level.  Linked to the issue of political commitment was the question of who could be considered to be a journalist.  From a human rights perspective, it was clear.  All individuals were entitled to the full protection of their human rights, whether the State recognized them as journalists or not; whether they were professional reporters or citizen journalists; whether or not they had a degree in journalism; and whether they reported online or offline.  States were urged to approach the issue under discussion from this human rights perspective, and to protect journalists and other media workers in the broadest sense. 


Statements by Panellists

GHIDA FAKHRY, Journalist and Panel Moderator, said that journalism was a pillar of a modern society, and also a human rights pillar.  It sometimes came with a very high price tag and was a risky business in many parts of the world, as highlighted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her opening remarks.  The purpose of the panel today was to identify best practices to ensure the safety of journalists and to discuss their implementation: what States, international organizations and the Human Rights Council could do, but also what journalists themselves could do to mitigate the risks.  Another key question for debate was who a journalist was today.

FRANK SMYTH, Journalist and Senior Advisor for Journalist Security at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that more needed to be done to protect journalists.  The greatest threat to the safety of journalists was unsolved murders: two out of three of all journalists killed were murdered and no one was prosecuted at all.  This was the issue that needed to be addressed and impunity for murders of journalists and safety of journalists must be connected.  Concrete steps must be taken to address murders, and to do so, more transparency was needed as was an adequate and due judicial process.

GHIDA FAKHRY, Panel moderator, said that nine out of ten attacks on journalists went unpunished and asked about steps to ensure that international safety standards were observed and to create a safety mechanism for journalists.

GETACHEW ENGIDA, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had developed a plan for the safety of journalists, but this plan was unfortunately still on paper; impunity was still the name of the game.  In order to implement the plan, real political commitment from the leaders was needed, as were adjustments in the legal system.  Answering the moderator’s question about the need for transparency and accountability, Mr. Engida said that UNESCO actively sought information from its Member States, and stressed the limitations of a United Nations organization which did not have law enforcement capacities.

DUNJA MIJATOVIC, Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Freedom of the Media, said that an answer could not be given as to why States were not complying with their commitments.  They had to find out how to engage more with States and how to be able to open the doors where the doors were closed when it came to impunity.  While the number of killed journalists was a concern, they had to say the names of journalists that were killed, not just mention numbers.  The safety of journalists was extremely important.  Why this profession was fiercely attacked was also something to be discussed.  There was a need for a stronger voice when it came to condemning countries that were not doing what they should be doing on this issue. 

ABEER SAADY, Journalist and Vice-President of the Syndicate of Journalists of Egypt, said that when talking about journalism, this was very broad.  Defining a journalist was very difficult and a challenge but the idea of the profession was to inform people, and allow them to make more informed decisions.  In the Middle East, at this particular time, there were difficulties.  Investment in the safety of journalists was a very big investment in the region.  They should not be looking at the short term, but at the long term.  Having worked in many countries in the region, it was found that there were things in common between those countries.  The political issue was very foggy and journalists were facing many challenges.  The issue was not whether to put the badge of being a journalist or not, which could lead to a likelihood of targeting.  Ninety per cent of journalists killed in the region were shot in the head or were tortured before death.  They were not numbers but persons with names.  If they stayed as numbers, they would be forgotten.  Addressing the needs of local journalists, not just international journalists, was also important, as they lived in those difficult areas, and really needed to be protected. 

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that something that was not very clear in the conversation was that it was true that all individuals around the world had the same rights and deserved the same protection, but some individuals faced a special danger and special risk and therefore deserved special protection.  It was the responsibility of the State to ensure this protection, regardless of whether the perpetrator was a State or non-State actor.   There had to be a position taken on freedom of the press, emergency mechanisms, legal measures, and an eradication of impunity.  There should be moments when cases on which information was received were voiced out.  However, there also had to be preventive measures.  The same way the United Nations had a Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the moment was right for a United Nations declaration on journalists.  As he had proposed two years ago, every single State should have an emergency mechanism in place for human rights defenders and journalists.   

FRANK SMYTH, Journalist and Senior Advisor for Journalist Security at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that the overwhelming majority of journalists murdered were local journalists, at a high rate which was unacceptable.  It was important to have training both for journalists covering conflicts as well as for the armed forces with whom they interacted.  Local investigative journalists were often at the front lines, journalists had been murdered for investigating human rights abuses and, more recently, were facing violence for covering criminal activities and in some cases links to government officials.

ABEER SAADY, Journalist and Vice-President of the Syndicate of Journalists of Egypt, emphasised the challenges faced by female journalists.  It was not only rape or harassment but also defamation, which was very important in some local contexts.  In the case of regional female war reporters, it was important to guarantee their safety.  Hate speech was often promoted against them as well as violence targeting female journalists.

GETACHEW ENGIDA, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), responding to a question concerning tangible success of the plan of action, highlighted some encouraging results such as initiatives to change practices and laws.  Much more needed to be done, particularly in the context of acts of violence against journalists.

DUNJA MIJATOVIC, Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Freedom of the Media, responding to a question about violence against journalists in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe region, said that countries often responded to calls to address this issue by asking for time and noting country specificity.  Change would not be achieved overnight and could not be taken for granted, not even in old democracies.  Human rights frameworks had to be strengthened and this was part of a joint effort, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other organizations.  Change would be very difficult without the necessary political will to address current challenges.  

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, concerning lessons from a regional perspective, said that Latin America was no exception concerning levels of violence against journalists and had engaged in creative forms of reforms.  Colombia had been often cited as an example of emergency protection measures for journalists that had been successful.  There was also the need to count with legal measures but this mechanism still had been able to save lives.  States should place emergency mechanisms in place in order to respond.  Mexico had received the recommendation to establish a special prosecutor and to specify crimes committed against journalists, so there were other ways in which law enforcement mechanisms to address these violations and prevent impunity could be implemented.  Concerning the need for political will, Mr. La Rue stressed the need for a strong belief in the importance of the value of journalism.

Discussion

European Union stressed that a free and vibrant media was a cornerstone of any democracy society and called on States to ensure accountability by investigating attacks and crimes against journalists and bringing perpetrators to justice.  Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reaffirmed the Arab Group’s attachment to the need to ensure the legal and physical safety of journalists from attacks by security forces and non-State actors and looked forward to hear from States on their good practices to keep journalists safe.  Russia, speaking on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said that the digital age had brought unlimited opportunities for the dissemination of information but had also opened up the media to new forms of vulnerability and interference and this required new thinking to keep journalists safe.   Russia spoke of egregious violations of human rights against journalists and television crews in Ukraine.  Austria said that the issue of impunity had been recognized as the biggest obstacle to ensuring the safety of journalists and the gap between international standards and their actual implementation must be closed. 

Morocco said that political will and a legislative framework must be in place to ensure the safety of journalists and fight impunity and to that end Morocco had created the National Press Council and had developed the Ethic Charter for journalists, and was also providing for the certification of journalists.  Unequivocal political will was a prerequisite, stressed Brazil, and that was why Brazil had created a Working Group on journalists which came up with recommendations to the Government to ensure that journalists worked in an enabling environment.  Based on the experience of its journalists, Estonia suggested that there might be a need for a specific international action code to protect journalists from arbitrary actions in some countries.  Tunisia said it systematically renounced and prosecuted all acts of violence against journalists, which had mainly been committed by non-State actors, and asked whether there was a need to further strengthen international and national legal framework for journalist protection. 

Montenegro shared information about measures taken to address violence against women journalists and asked the panellists about best domestic measures to prevent attacks against journalists.  Ecuador said it had a Responsible Journalist Prize which covered five categories of journalism and would be awarded in September 2014.  In addition to political will and the legislation in place to protect human rights defenders, union leaders, judges and journalists, Colombia said it had set up the national protection unit within the Office of Attorney General, which now offered protection schemes to over 100 journalists.  Article XIX said that often, murder was the last signpost of failed protection and impunity was the greatest obstacle to the safety of journalists.  International Federation of Journalists welcomed the timely discussion today and urged the Human Rights Council to give urgent attention to the safety of journalists in the Central African Republic.  Press Emblem Campaign stressed that an independent international mechanism accessible to journalists and their families would be the right step in combating impunity.

GHIDA FAKHRY, Journalist and Panel Moderator, said that it was safe to say that there was an unusual level of consensus in the room, at least on the issue of publicly stating a need to protect journalists.  The only big gap was on how to do it.  What was echoed was how to ensure that the international community and international organizations and civil society could put pressure on States if they failed to meet their obligations. 

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that when States failed in their obligations, it was important to use all forms to call their attention.  In the Human Rights Council, there had been a big discussion about how far should reporting go.  There should be an element of further disclosure.  The feeling was that that in itself was not enough.  In the United Nations Joint Plan of Action, there was talk of a joint United Nations agency effort on a concentrated list of actions and verifying the process in which attacks against journalists were occurring, so that there could be a database, which could also be published.  There were problems of privacy and security of journalists, but this was an issue that should be looked at. 

GETACHEW ENGIDA, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, did not believe that it was time to have a legal instrument.  There were sufficient international instruments.  There was a lack of action on the ground and there was a lack of sufficient political commitment and will.  To get this, pressure had to be kept at different angles, including pressure on a continuous basis on Governments to fulfil their commitments.

DUNJA MIJATOVIC, Representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Freedom of the Media, said that rights on and offline were the same and there should not be engagement in too much work on defining journalism and who was or was not a journalist.  Governments needed to have more engagement with non-governmental organizations.  In too many countries, there was a lack of communication and contact with non-governmental organizations working on the protection of journalists.  Guidelines were produced by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in order to help journalists; they also contained recommendations for Governments.  However, there was simply a lack of political will that had to be addressed in a more direct and open way.

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, strongly believed that political will internally was critically important.  Every State had to take upon itself its responsibilities.  It was important to respect the principle of privacy and anonymity of journalists, and to have an ombudsman or rapporteur in every single country or in regional bodies.

FRANK SMYTH, Journalist and Senior Advisor for Journalist Security at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that action had to come from Member States at the ground level, within their own nations.  Another United Nations instrument was not needed.  What was needed was transparency.  There had been a discussion about abuses being committed in Ukraine.  There were other cases as well, such as in Russia.  Local action was needed.  States had to put their values in action in terms of what they were doing on the ground.  Providing judicial information on attacks on journalists, especially on the ground, was one of the first steps to be taken.

ABEER SAADY, Journalist and Vice-President of the Syndicate of Journalists of Egypt, speaking about civil society, said that in some countries, journalists did not have syndicates that represented them.  Civil society had to work on this recognised right.  It was not possible to have good governance and accountability without a free-flow of information and the right of civil society to work on the ground, with freedom of expression.  Without the flow of information or freedom of expression, there was nothing on the ground.  Journalists mainly worked on those issues. 

GETACHEW ENGIDA, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that UNESCO was a very small organization with a big mandate.  To translate the mandate into practice it needed partnership from different parts of society.  Without this, it was difficult to practice the free-flow of information and for that reason UNESCO considered its partnerships critically important for the free-flow of information to expand, develop, and further strengthen.

Algeria thanked participants for sharing good practices and reiterated journalists’ contributions to society, as well as for ensuring democracy and good governance.  In Algeria freedom of expression was enshrined in the Constitution. Slovenia said that the safety of journalists had to be ensured while covering mass demonstrations, conflicts or crises; this was essential to ensure their work.  Journalists played an important role in society and their protection was therefore in the public interest.  Mexico said that the safety of communicators was of importance and Mexico since 2012 had had a protection mechanism for human right defenders and journalists, which adopted specific measures on particular cases; additionally, the office of a special prosecutor for the attention of crimes committed against journalists had been created.  Lithuania stressed the agreement on ensuring the web and the protection of journalists; clarity on how to implement available tools world-wide, such as the United Nations plan of action for the safety of journalists, was needed.  United Kingdom noted that the ability of journalists to operate freely was a requirement for freedom of expression and the protection of human rights, emphasising the need for States to prevent violence, carry out investigations, and bring perpetrators to justice.  What were the most common challenges in closing the gap between legislative measures and implementation on the ground?  Switzerland said that journalists contributed to transparency in public affairs and contributed with necessary information for democratic societies, and underscored the need of fighting impunity for perpetrators.   Organisation international de la Francophonie said that it was working to integrate the objective of the protection of journalists among its priorities, and focused on the development of an environment that was conducive to the work of journalists. 

United States agreed with the need for States to take clear legislative measures to prevent attacks and ensure accountability, as well as clear political will.  France said that this was a subject in which both the Security Council and the Human Rights Council had a role to play as different acts of violence against journalists were on the rise.  Journalists should be able to carry out their work without hindrance, and France was working with other partners to mobilise expertise in Geneva to ensure the collective implementation of practical solutions.  Poland said that freedom of expression constituted a cornerstone of democratic societies.  Journalists were the eyes and voices of democratic societies, giving hope to people who struggled under undemocratic regimes.  Protection should cover all news providers in times of peace and conflict.  Greece welcomed the panel discussion and recalled its engagement in the Security Council and the General Assembly on this topic, as it saw the safety of journalists as closely related to freedom of expression and democracy.  India took note of good practices for ensuring the protection of journalists.  The media played an important role in promoting accountability and as a watchdog of civil liberties but it should also be exercised with responsibility.  There was a need for journalists to operate within the legal framework of their respective countries.

Eastern Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said journalists, bloggers and other independent media voices played an important role in the promotion of human rights.  Journalists from the region were routinely subject to violations of their most basic and fundamental human rights by State and non-State actors.  International Humanist and Ethical Union said that an attack on a journalist violated not only the individual’s right to free expression, but also that of others to seek and obtain information.  Free expression could be undermined by many mechanisms.  One that still held traction was the use of subjective notions of offense and insult.  Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development welcomed the initiative at the international level to discuss the safety of journalists.  Violence against journalists in the media and impunity continued to be a pressing concern in Southeast Asia and it was recommended that States take appropriate and immediate steps.

Portugal said freedom of expression and opinion were at the core of human rights.  It strongly condemned attacks and the prosecution of journalists, and pleaded for the adoption of effective steps to protect journalists and ensure a safe environment for their work.  China said journalists had the obligation to provide timely and truthful information and faced emergency and dangerous situations.  China protected the safety of journalists in accordance with the law as long as they conducted their work in accordance with the law.  Ireland said that an attack on a journalist was an attack on free society and on the values and the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and had to be understood as such.  Punishment could make an essential contribution to prevention.

Czech Republic said that it provided yearly financial support to numerous projects with the aim to raise the quality of journalism and the overall media landscape.  It hoped to hear about further best practices and looked forward to the summary outcome of this panel discussion.  Pakistan said that a free and independent media was an important pillar of Pakistan.  It was underscored that all cases of intimidation and harassment against journalists got immediate attention and were addressed by the Parliament and judiciary.  Italy strongly believed that the safety and protection of journalists remained a key priority for the full implementation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  While the protection of journalists was a primary responsibility of the State, could it be elaborated on what contribution partnership with civil society could make?  

GHIDA FAKHRY, Journalist and Panel Moderator, said that all statements heard today pointed to how wide the problem of safety of journalists was and noted that when speaking about the safety of journalists, many thought mainly of their physical safety, but what was often more at stake was their freedom of expression. 

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that physical risks and dangers were obvious but it was clear that there was an increase in censorship and mechanisms to silence journalists.  Decriminalizing defamation was therefore very important.  There was also a need to establish corporate responsibility of big media outlets for their own journalists, their wellbeing and livelihoods.  It was impossible to act freely if media were concentrated in monopolies, be they public or private.

GHIDA FAKHRY, Journalist and Panel Moderator, asked Ms. Mijatovic whether there was a need to give a specific human rights focus to the issue of the safety of journalists and frame the issue in human rights terms.

DUNJA MIJATOVIC, Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Freedom of the Media, said that a human rights approach to the safety of journalists was important and many organizations were already employing this approach.  Ms. Mijatovic stressed that often forgotten was the need for psychological support for journalists working in conflict zones and how States could help in providing this support.  The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was now focused on the treatment of journalists in Ukraine, where over 300 case of abuse had been reported.  In a situation like this, it was imperative to act and not talk about new international conventions.

Turning to Mr. Engida, GHIDA FAKHRY, Journalist and Panel Moderator, asked how technical assistance from the United Nations and regional organizations helped States and whether more United Nations Special Rapporteurs should look into freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.  How could the United Nations help navigate the difficult environment in which journalists operated?

GETACHEW ENGIDA, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the United Nations agencies should continue to strengthen their technical assistance to Member States and States should ensure that freedom of speech was respected.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was pushing for the post-2015 development agenda to include freedom of expression, the rule of law and good governance as a stand-alone goal.  Mr. Engida referred States to consult the recent UNESCO report on freedom of expression, which also addressed the issue of gender and freedom of expression.   The United Nations agencies were not the only actors, global and regional partnerships were needed with Governments and civil society.

FRANK SMYTH, Journalist and Senior Advisor for Journalist Security at the Committee to Protect Journalists, concerning root causes and the need to address impunity, said that the most important step had to do with transparency and echoed Ireland concerning State involvement, ranging from mayors to security forces.  To start moving in the right direction, States which had not yet responded to UNESCO’s Director-General’s call for information should do so in order for this data to be made public.  Journalists and Member States should be transparent.

ABEER SAADY, Journalist and Vice-President of the Syndicate of Journalists of Egypt, responding to the impact of restrictions and attacks on the profession, said ethics were very important.  Transparency and accountability contributed to preventing further violations.

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that the biggest problem was impunity.  After that, enhancing the possibilities for investigations should be the way forward. 

DUNJA MIJATOVIC, Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Freedom of the Media, said that States should not intervene with freedom of the media in contravention of international standards.  States should also investigate any attacks.

GETACHEW ENGIDA, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the main challenge was to secure a political commitment from Governments because otherwise the wide range of measures available would not really have an effect.

BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, President of the Human Rights Council, thanked Ms. Fakhry for the quality of her moderation.  Panellists and all the others that had participated were also thanked for their contributions.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC14/063E