At the World Human Rights Forum in Morocco, IFJ President Jim Boumelha was a keynote speaker during the opening ceremony in Marrakech, on Thursday 29 November 2014, highlighting the important role of journalism in relation to human rights and representing the Federation’s 600,000 journalists based in 130 countries.
In his opening speech, Jim Boumelha highlighted the interconnections between journalists and human rights defenders - those who oppose all human rights too often also target journalists. Jim Boumelha referred to Harold Evans, the former Editor of Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, who has spoken out against the killing of journalists, Harold Evans said:
“The price of truth has gone up grievously". Every week we pay with the life of a reporter, a cameraman, a support worker. But unless the life is that of a well-known western correspondent, the world barely takes notice.
Jim Boumelha IFJ President, at the Human Rights Forum opening plenary, said:
“At the beginning of every year, the IFJ publishes a report on the journalists killed in the previous year. It is often said that the journalists killed are the collateral victims of conflict. That may be true for some but most die because they were simply doing their jobs.
“There is a common thread among all these men and women who come from different backgrounds and cultures and have all sacrificed their lives for journalism – they were working to keep their citizens well-informed.
“The world often underestimates the role of journalists and tends to forget the thousands of journalists who work daily to contribute towards the continuous flow of information which our societies depend on to learn and to make informed choices.
“Journalists have a common mission and should not be expected to pay with their lives. We must never doubt the strong convictions of an honorable profession that is dedicated to the truth and the public interest.
“We must continue to pay tribute to journalists, we must not forget those who have died and we must continue to fight to make sure that journalism is a safe profession.
“Journalists continue to be slaughtered in the four corners of the world. They are hunted, targeted and attacked. Many journalists have died and the latest include Camille Lapage, the French photographer, who was killed in an ambush in the Central African Republic and James Foley and Steven Sotloff who were beheaded in Syria. There are many more.
“The International Federation of Journalists has been monitoring the number of journalists killed for 24 years and there were nearly 1,000 journalists killed in the last ten years - about 2 journalists killed every week. And in 80% of these cases, governments do nothing to find the killers.
“The United Nations and UNESCO have a special mandate to defend freedom of expression and they have been engaged in producing a plethora of tools and instruments to protect journalists and to end impunity. Unfortunately they do not do enough to ensure that the international laws, declarations, motions, and other action plans are implemented by the governments that support and sign them.
“These rights are essential to democracy, transparency, accountability and the rule of law. They are vital to human dignity, social progress and inclusive development.
“We are forced to confront serious threats to freedom of the press around the world every day.
“Journalists face many different types of attacks including assassinations. Many journalists suffer non-fatal attacks - journalists are injured, raped, abducted, intimidated, or illegally arrested or detained. We must pay particular attention to the attacks faced by local journalists, including freelance journalists because they make up 95% of the victims.
“This situation concerns not only the global family of journalists, media organisations and trade unions but it also concerns the whole of our society. When a journalist is attacked or killed it is an attack on the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression and it is also an attack on democracy and an attack on all of our rights.
“The rights of journalists are essential to democracy, transparency, accountability and the rule of law. I appeal to our societies and citizens, our governments and all the organisations and influential people - especially to human rights activists - I encourage you to take action to help us create a free and safe environment for journalists.
“It is only when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticise policies and actions that good governance can exist and flourish.”
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The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries