World press freedom day 2014
3 May 2014
Two journalists a week are killed bringing news and information to the public.
Last year was one of the bloodiest for journalists covering events across the globe and in their own countries, with too many losing their lives while doing their job.
World press freedom day (WPFD) is about commemorating brave men and women and is an opportunity to call on governments, who sign protocols and declarations about the safety of journalists, to match action with their words.
The NUJ has been working with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on the End Impunity campaign to seek justice for journalists.
According to UNESCO only one out of ten crimes against media workers has led to a conviction.
The NUJ campaigns internationally for press and trade union freedom. It lobbies the English and Irish foreign offices, governments where journalists are jailed and works with the international community to demand that the killers of media workers are brought to justice.
Most of the media workers killed are not war correspondents; according to UNESCO 95 per cent of victims are local journalists covering local stories. Attacks on journalists are often perpetrated by organized criminal groups, militia, security personnel, and police, making local journalists among the most vulnerable. These attacks include murder, abductions, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, speaking at a WPFD event in Dublin, said:
"As trade unionists and journalists we protest relentlessly, using our collective efforts to expose the shameful failure of governments to properly investigate and prosecute the killers, and we lead the fight for justice.
"It is a simple fact that freedom of the press and free expression are not possible where journalists face extreme violence for doing their job. And without freedom of expression, there is no democracy: corruption flourishes and aid money, for example, is diverted from its proper use, citizens don’t know what their rulers are doing and cannot make informed decisions.
"Only a few months ago the UN adopted yet another Plan of Action for the safety of journalists. It was reinforced by a hard-hitting declaration of the UNESCO Director-General, saying that 'the safety of journalists is essential to upholding Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees the right to freedom of expression'.
"From these range of treaties and other instruments, it is clear that the problem of impunity is well recognised and that the description, across the majority of instruments, of the rights to protect journalists seems complete.
"The major hindrance for the protection of journalists derives not from the scope of the rights but from implementation deficits."
UNESCO is holding an event, Media Freedom for a Better Future' for WPFD in Paris this weekend.
During the conference the IFJ will be hosting a high profile Safety of Journalists event aimed at highlighting press issues concerning the safety of journalists across the world and giving first-hand accounts of the daily experiences journalists face while doing their work.
Jim Boumelha, president of the IFJ, said:
"UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day conference is taking place at a most crucial crossroad for journalists. The season is still open on journalists who continue to be targeted, gunned down, kidnapped, imprisoned and harassed in all corners of the world with tragedies on a scale which has shocked even the most hardened of frontline reporters.
"Deadly, unpunished violence against journalists leads to self-censorship and the shackling of press freedom – from Somalia to Mexico, journalists today avoid sensitive topics, leave the profession, or flee their homeland to escape violent retribution.
"Journalists and their unions the world over support the UN Plan of Action, but they have lost faith in documents and grand statements. It is dismaying that the instruments are there but they still await effective action as none are binding. The major hindrance for the protection of journalists derives not from the scope of the rights but from implementation deficits."
He said the IFJ will be calling on all the organisations at the Paris WPFD to help end the culture of impunity, not just through declarations, covenants and resolution, encouragement to member states or meaningful partnerships and awareness raising, but through effective criminalisation and independent investigations leading to the punishment of those responsible.
At the NUJ's delegate meeting (DM) in April, delegates passed a motion which deplored the killing of 1,100 journalists in the past 10 years and applauded the rapid response of the IFJ and its affiliates to incidents and their campaigns to help colleagues in Russia, Palestine, Mexico, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. DM agreed to launch a campaign to persuade branches to donate to the IFJ's International Safety Fund which provides assistance to journalists under threat.