The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) yesterday took the first step to launch a new high-level campaign aimed at the General Assembly of the United Nations on the protection and safety of journalists. An IFJ delegation led by its president Jim Boumelha was received yesterday by the President of General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar as part of a coalition that came together following a conference on journalists held in Doha last January under the aegis of the Qatar National Human Rights Committee.
The coalition included the IFJ delegation comprising its president 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), and Nestor Burgos Jr , chair of IFJ member union in the Philippines, the National Union of Journalists; 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.
"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," said Jim Boumelha "Our message to the General Assembly is to use whatever mechanisms it has in its power to force member states to discharge rigorously their responsibility under international laws to protect journalists and put a stop to impunity."
Since the Security Council passed the much acclaimed resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists in conflict and impunity, over 600 journalists have died, the great majority of which murdered in their own countries.
This message was echoed by the General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser at an ensuing news conference saying, "It is unacceptable that journalists are being murdered every year but the killers often go free". He added, "I strongly support the efforts of the Committee and encourage all peace-loving member states, civil society actors and the media sector to support endeavours leading to the endorsement of the recommendation of the [Doha] conference".
The recommendations, resulting from the Doha conference, were distributed by President Al-Nasser to all the 193 members of the UN. They ask the United Nations to develop new binding tools for States to accept a standing obligation to protect journalists, to adopt reforms to its mechanisms and procedures such as through regional security organisations, expanding 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.
"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 be spearheading moves to plug the gaps that allowed impunity to flourish," added Boumelha.
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 two years ago, and handed 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 vast self-censorship and the catastrophic situation for journalists since the 2009 coup in Honduras where government has been slow and negligent in pursuing journalists' killers.
The IFJ's new initiative at the UN takes place as UNESCO launched a consultation on a new Plan on the Safety of Journalists and Combating Impunity.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries