Media outlets, journalists, NGOs and prominent figures on every continent have joined in calling for the appointment of a “journalists’ protector” with the position of special representative to the UN secretary-general for the safety of journalists, in accordance with a proposal by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
This coalition is urging the United Nations and its Member States to give this position the political weight, capacity for rapid action and legitimacy to coordinate UN efforts for the safety of journalists.
The goal is to establish a concrete mechanism that enforces international law and thereby finally reduces the number of journalists killed every year in the course of their work.
The adoption of many UN resolutions on protecting journalists and combatting impunity has not had concrete results, to judge by the statistics. According to RSF’s figures, 787 journalists and media workers were killed in the course of their work in the past ten years, and 67 journalists were killed in 2015 alone.
“We welcome the large number of organizations and prominent figures that are backing the creation of the position of special representative to the UN secretary-general for the safety of journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“The massive support for this campaign is growing by the day. If the United Nations and its Member States create this special representative post, journalists will have renewed hope of being able to work more safely. Without effective protection for journalists, you cannot guarantee the right to information and you cannot combat propaganda and violent extremism.”
The many organizations that have joined the campaign include the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) and the Rory Peck Trust.
Many media outlets are supporting the campaign, including WAN-IFRA members: The Hindu, Bangkok Post, Grupo RBS, The New York Times, Manoramaonline, USA Today, VK Media, ABP, JP Politikens Hus, Jagran, Mediahuis, NewsBrands Ireland, The Irish Times, Helsingin Sanomat and Kristelight Dagblad.
Leading public figures have also expressed their support. UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said on 5 February: “I agree on the importance of the proposal for a special representative on journalist safety, within the Office of the United Nations Secretary General.”
Cilla Benkö, the director-general of Swedish Radio, wrote in The Guardian on 11 March: “I support Reporters without Borders in its demands that the UN should appoint a special representative responsible for overseeing issues concerned with the safety of journalists. Correspondents must be protected against attacks and I’m sure that a special representative could accomplish a great deal if given a clear and strong mandate.”