French president calls for UN special representative for journalists’ safety

In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron backed a call by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a coalition of more than 130 NGOs and media outlets for the creation of a concrete mechanism to enforce international law regarding the protection of journalists.

RSF has been calling for the creation of this mechanism for the past two years as part of the #ProtectJournalists campaign.

After defending press freedom in his address, President Macron said: “I call for the appointment of a special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the protection of journalists throughout the world, because the fight against terrorism and the harsher world we are living in should under no circumstances justify any reduction in this freedom.”

We thank Emmanuel Macron for his support, expressed at the UN’s very heart, on one of the most crucial issues for media freedom, namely the protection of journalists in an era in which they are subjected to so much violence, said Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary general. “It is time to end these abuses that gravely undermine the right to news and information of millions of citizens worldwide. Many governments have already expressed their desire for the creation of the position of a journalists’ protector reporting directly to the UN secretary-general. The moment has come to take concrete action.”

At least 780 journalists and media workers have been killed in connection with their work in the past ten years, despite strong resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council. No fewer than 78 journalists were killed worldwide in 2016 alone. At least 35 journalists and media workers have been killed since the start of 2017.

The legal framework on journalists’ safety that has been adopted within the United Nations will remain dead letter without the creation of a concrete mechanism for enforcing international law.

Only a special representative reporting directly to the UN secretary-general would be able to reinforce specific implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and would have sufficient political weight, the capacity to act quickly, and the legitimacy to coordinate all UN efforts in order to bring about real change in the field.

After RSF, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) met with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in February, he decided to set up a special channel of communication with the media outlets and NGOs in the #ProtectJournalists coalition. The channel is intended to enable direct and permanent communication between the coalition and the UN secretariat in cases of emergencies involving the safety of journalists. In August, Guterres named his senior advisor on policy, Ana-Maria Menendez, as the “focal point” for urgent cases reported via this communication channel.

See more information on the #ProtectJournalists campaign here, including the list of more than 130 NGOs and media outlets that support the initiative.

Published on
Updated on 20.09.2017