The following is the final Declaration adopted by the regional conference entitled " Safety and Justice: Protecting Journalists in the Middle East and the Arab World" held in Cairo , Egypt from 4 to 5 April.
We, the participants at the regional conference "Safety and Justice: Protecting Journalists in the Middle East and the Arab World" held in Cairo on 4-5 April 2012
APPLAUDING the effort by the IFJ in its ongoing programme "Building a Culture of Safety for Journalists in the Middle East and the Arab World" which was launched in Rabat, Morocco on 10th May2011.
COMMENDING the European Commission, the Norwegian Government, the Secretariat of the Sweedish Federation of Trade Union (LO-TCO) and the International Media Support for showing strong support for the safety training programme rolled out by the IFJ in the region;
RECOGNISING the problems encountered by journalists in dangerous assignments and the important role they play as essential to democracy, combating corruption, protecting human rights and upholding the rule of law; also recognising the work of journalists and a free press as an essential pre-condition of the right to freedom of expression;
RECALLING the numerous acts of violence in many parts of the Middle East and the Arab world against journalists, media staff and associated personnel in armed conflicts, in particular in Algeria during the civil war in 1990s, in Palestine and in Iraq as a result of the American-British invasion in 2003, most of which have never been investigated and their perpetrators remain unpunished;
CONCERNED that reports of death and abuse of journalists continues to grow, noting in particular that at least 33 journalists and media workers were killed in 2011 during the Arab Spring - 1 in Algeria, 1 in Bahrain, 2 in Egypt, 1 in Iran, 11 in Iraq, 6 in Libya, 1 in Syria, 1 in Tunisia, 5 in Yemen and 4 in Somalia. ; while some have been arrested, injured, kidnapped or detained; noting that at least 9 journalists were killed in the regional so far this year in Somalia and Syria;
RECALLING Resolution 29 entitled "Condemnation of violence against journalists", adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 12 November 1997, which condemns violence against journalists and calls on Member States to uphold their obligations to prevent, investigate and punish crimes against journalists
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the 1949 Geneva Convention Protocol I, on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel, including article 71;
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2005/81 and previous resolutions on impunity, which calls on all states to put an end to impunity and to prosecute or extradite, in accordance with their obligations under international law;
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT other UN declarations such as the Belgrade Declaration on assistance to media in conflict areas and countries in transition in 2007 and the Medellin Declaration on securing the safety of journalists and combating impunity;
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the regular report "Safety of journalists and the danger of impunity" submitted by the Director-General of UNESCO to the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) as a monitoring tool for follow-up actions by member states;
WELCOMING the adoption by the Security Council of the United Nations of Resolution 1738 on 23 December 2006 calling inter alia on all states to do their utmost to prevent violations of international humanitarian law against civilians, including journalists, and to comply with the relevant obligations under international law to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law; and further requesting the UN Secretary?General to include as a sub? item in his subsequent reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict the issue of the safety and security of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel;
UNDERSCORING the Resolution of the World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Cadiz, Spain, in May 2010 on Safety of Journalists;
DEEPLY CONCERNED about the increasingly dangerous and hostile environment that journalists face in the Middle East and the Arab world often resulting in the killing of journalists and associated media personnel; and the continued culture of impunity, resulting in the vast majority of crimes committed against journalists remaining uninvestigated and unpunished;
STRESSING the need to build a culture of safety for journalists in the Middle East and the Arab world as messengers and communicators of peoples in the region and to establish the respect for freedom of expression and press freedom as fundamental human rights;
RECALLING Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees freedom of expression as a fundamental right, and confirming that freedom of expression is essential to the realisation of other rights set forth in international human rights instruments;
ALSO RECALLING the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which reinforces the right to freedom of expression, including "the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, subject to restrictions only as are provided by law and are necessary to respect of the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals";
REAFFIRMING that censorship, violence, intimidation ,harassment, pressure and threats to journalists are major obstacles to freedom of expression and a free press; and that safety of journalists is closely tied to press freedom, free flow of information and freedom of expression, which are the basis of a healthy democracy, good governance, peace and stability;
RECOGNISING that guaranteeing the safety of journalists requires cooperative action and assistance on the part of journalists, media owners, governments, media development organisations, civil society , inter?governmental organisations and the wider international community;
Members States in the Arab region and the Middle East to:
1. Take immediate action whenever journalists and media are attacked and uphold the right to freedom of expression and press freedom in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
2. Investigate actions of violent behaviour against journalists and associated media personnel and bring to justice the perpetrators of these criminal acts.
3. Provide practical and prompt protection for journalists and other media personnel whose safety and security are endangered for carrying out their media work.
4. Ensure that military and security forces recognise, respect and promote the safety of journalists, and guarantee that journalists are able to work in full security and independence on their territory.
5. Adhere to the commitments of UNESCO Resolution 29 and other international instruments to promote legislation with the intention of investigating and prosecuting the killers of journalists and to combat impunity.
6. Release all journalists in detention because of their work and decriminalise press offences.
7. Allocate enough funds to organise safety trainings for journalists working in the state owned media.
Trade Unions, Media Organisations and the International Community to:
1. Continue to develop safety of journalists' programmes throughout the region in partnership with the International Federation of Journalists and news media organisations as well as human rights organisations and the wider trade union movement with the aim to nurture a culture of safety for journalists in the region, including training of trainers, regular safety advice and the setting up of safe houses for journalists in dangers.
2. Carry out strong and well?targeted action to ensure the safety of journalists and associated media personnel working in hostile environment, such as the provision of special protection tools and regular advisories ..
3. Promote awareness of the safety of journalists among the media community by providing safety training for journalists, raising the awareness of media owners/managers about the risks journalists face while working in danger zones and developing safety guidelines based on the region's realities, culture and values.
Such training needs to pay attention to the particular reporting challenges associated with working with traumatic material and, in so doing, to promote a culture of self-care, informal support amongst colleagues and industry-wide trauma awareness.
4. Set up an effective alerts system, using the Internet, social medias and the IFJ affiliates and networks, to give immediately the fullest information about crimes against journalists;
5. Support, organise and coordinate extensive campaigns (using on-line petitions for example) on unpunished crimes against journalists and other acts of violence to generate news coverage of all violations of press freedom and rights of journalists.
6. Publish, print and online, and distribute globally details of the targeted and killed journalists.
7. Make April 8th a global day designed to commemorate killed journalists in the region and set up national days of action on safety in relevant countries.
8. Participate fully in the IFJ programme aimed at the UN, UNESCO and the Human Rights Council.
9. Support the setting up of a campaigning organisation led by the families of killed journalists in the region.
10. Help raise funds for the IFJ Safety Fund.
The League of Arab States to:
1. Pay particular attention to the safety of journalists in the Middle East and the Arab world and respect for freedom of expression and press freedom.
2. Impress upon governments that the safety of journalists and associated personnel and their protection in situations of armed conflict are of paramount importance to assuring freedom of the press, freedom of expression and democratic governance.
3. Condemn in the strongest terms all forms of violence, including murder, intimidation, abduction, hostage?taking, kidnapping, sexual violence and harassment to which journalists, media personnel and associated personnel are increasingly exposed.
4. Further condemn any illegal arrest and detention of journalists, media personnel and associated personnel, as well as attacks on media organisations and acts of destruction and looting of their property.
5. Strongly advocate for the respect for journalists' rights, particularly their independence and safety, in governments' programmes aimed at improving the social, economic and political life of societies in the process of development and political post conflict transition.
6. Exhort all parties involved in an armed conflict to comply fully with the rules and principles of international law related to the protection of journalists, media personnel and associated personnel.
7. Impress upon governments to bring to justice individuals who incite such violence, in accordance with applicable international and national law and to ensure that those who commit crimes against journalists, media staff and associated personnel are prosecuted within the law.
8. Encourage actively all states which have not done so to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, and call upon States that have signed to further strengthen measures to safeguard journalists in areas of armed conflict.
9. Invite the Secretary General of the League of Arab States to examine with the concerned stakeholders adopting a protocol which addressing the rights and safety of journalists and associated media personnel.