In an event at the opening day of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, ARTICLE 19 was joined by journalists and civil society from Bangladesh, Brazil, Malta and Turkey to discuss the deteriorating state of press freedom around the world, said ARTICLE 19 official statement.
The event was co-organized with the Permanent Mission of the UK to the UN in Geneva, and included the participation of the Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and UN. Lord Ahmad spoke about a planned UK-led global campaign on media freedom for 2019, with a summit to take place in the summer. The UN event was supported by the missions of Austria, Canada, France, Greece and Netherlands.
“A coordinated campaign from states to protect media freedom is needed”, said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19.
The event heard how 97 journalists were killed in 2018, and that for more historic cases, the impunity rate stands at the staggering rate of 89%.
Thiago Firbida, the protection coordinator for ARTICLE 19 Brazil, highlighted at the event how Brazil is among one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a journalist. While some progress was noted, including the opening of the Federal Protection Mechanism to include journalists, and the adoption of protocols for responding to cases of attacks, this is not leading to improvements in safety.
In Bangladesh, Masuda Bhatti, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Amader Notun Somoy, spoke to particular gender-based threats facing women journalists. She said, the online environment for journalists is particularly hostile, and space is only shrunk further by restrictive legislation like the ICT Act.
Pelin Unker, an award-winning freelance journalist in Turkey, highlighted via a video message how she was the only member of an international network of reporters working on the Paradise Papers now facing prison for ‘libel’ and ‘insult’.
The discussion highlighted how attacks on multilateralism at the international and regional levels has weakened scope for coordinated responses from States to attacks against journalists, and that addressing this must be a priority.
Safety of journalists will feature prominently as a human rights concern at the UN in Geneva and New York in 2019.
The independent investigation to the murder of journalist Jamal Khasshogi, led by UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, will report to the Human Rights Council in June. In New York, safety of journalists will be a focus in the review of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development during the summer, followed by a resolution on the safety of journalists at the 74th UN General Assembly.