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IFJ takes campaign for journalists' safety to UN

11 September 2012

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has taken the first step to launch a high-level campaign for the protection and safety of journalists at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

An IFJ delegation, led by president Jim Boumelha, a member of the NUJ national executive council, was received by the president of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, as part of a coalition formed after an International Conference to Protect Journalists in Doha last January under the aegis of the Qatar National Human Rights Committee.

The coalition included the IFJ delegation, comprising Jim Boumelha, Omar Faruk, president of the Federation of African Journalists; Celso Schroder, president of the Federación de Periodistas de América Latina y el Caribe (Fepalc); Nestor Burgos Jr., chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; Mohamed Makram, general secretary of the Federation of Arab Journalists; Gianfranco Fattorini, representing the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign; and Ali Bin Samikh Al-Marri, chair of the Qatar National Human Rights Committee.

Jim Boumelha said:

"The killing of journalists continues to increase worldwide, despite the plethora of international instruments, international human rights laws, universal human rights laws, covenants, declarations and resolutions which are simply ignored by many governments."
"Our message to the General Assembly is to use whatever mechanisms it has in its power to force member states to discharge their responsibility rigorously under international laws to protect journalists and put a stop to impunity [in international law of human rights, impunity refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice]."

Since the Security Council passed the much-acclaimed resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists in conflict and impunity, more than 600 journalists have died, most of them murdered in their own countries.

At a news conference that followed the meeting, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said it was unacceptable that journalists were being murdered every year but the killers often go free.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser added:

"I strongly support the efforts of the committee and encourage all peace-loving member states, civil society and the media sector to support endeavours leading to the endorsement of the recommendation of the [Doha] conference."

The recommendations made by the Doha conference were distributed to all 193 members of the UN. They ask the United Nations to ensure countries accept an obligation to protect journalists, to adopt reforms to UN mechanisms and procedures via its regional security organisations, expand the mandates of special rapporteurs and relevant bodies, develop further monitoring, intrusive inspections and mandatory sanctions and, finally, create a unit to follow up media cases at the Human Rights Council.

Jim Boumelha added:

"We need renewed action by the UN to start forcing member states to implement current provisions but to also develop new tools. It is clear that the incremental approach has proven insufficient and the IFJ will spearhead moves to plug the gaps that allowed impunity to flourish."

Nestor Burgos made a special appeal to the General Assembly president on behalf of JUSTICE NOW!, the coalition of the families of the 32 journalists murdered in Ampatuan on the on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines two years ago. He handed Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser a letter from the families asking the General Assembly to help them achieve justice and expedite the prosecution and conviction of those involved in the massacre.

Omar Faruk raised the deteriorating situation for journalists in Somalia, where seven journalists have been murdered this year, making it the most dangerous country for journalists in Africa.

Celso Schroder highlighted the press fatalities in Mexico, which remain among the highest in the world, leading to widespread self-censorship, and the catastrophic situation in Honduras for journalists since the 2009 coup where government has been slow and negligent in pursuing journalists' killers.

The IFJ's initiative at the UN takes place as UNESCO launched a consultation on a new Plan on the Safety of Journalists and Combating Impunity.

Tags: , ifj, UNESCO, health and safety, journalists killed, un