Safety of journalists
According to independent observers, such as the International Press Institute (IPI), over 900 journalists worldwide have died since the year 2000 due to their profession. There is a worldwide increase in attacks against journalists. The staggering number of targeted killings is of particular concern. Impunity for those responsible for attacks against journalists constitutes one of the biggest obstacles to the safety of journalists. 94% of reported cases remain unresolved and the offenders are never brought to justice.
The safety of journalists is a fundamental pillar of the universal, inalienable right to press-freedom, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 Paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Each state has a duty to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without any interference. However, there is a broad gap between existing international law and its actual implementation.
In order to effectively enhance the safety of journalists a comprehensive approach is needed, that includes media organizations, civil society groups, governments and international organizations.
What is Austria doing and what role does the UN- Human Rights Council play?
The Human Rights Council, as the supreme human rights body of the United Nations, has an important role to play in the context of ensuring the safety of journalists. Austria has made the safety of journalists a priority for her membership in the Human Rights Council, focussing her initiatives on the fight against impunity as well as on preventing future crimes against journalists.
As a first step, on 23 November high level expert consultations were held in Vienna upon joint initiative of the Austrian Government and the International Press Institute (IPI). Participants from international and regional organisations, Governments as well as civil society discussed concrete means of bolstering the safety of journalists around the world, especially through the United Nations and other international organizations.
The results of the Vienna meeting are being introduced into a series of activities in the framework of the Human Rights Council. On the occasion of the 20th session of the Human Rights Council (18 June–6 July 2012) a Joint Statement on the Safety of Journalists was delivered by 57 states from all regions upon Austrian initiative. The statement underlines the special role that journalists play in society, condemns human rights violations against journalists, recalls the obligation of each state to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists, stresses the need for ending impunity and highlights the importance of sharing best practices and of better coordination and cooperation at the international level.
Austria‘s ultimate objective is to achieve a substantial resolution by the Council with a view to placing the safety of journalists firmly on the international agenda.
On the occasion of the 21st session of the Human Rights Council (10 – 28 September 2012), Austria, in cooperation with a cross-regional core group of Member States (Brazil, Morocco,Tunisia and Switzerland), presented a draft resolution on the safety of journalists with a view to placing the safety of journalists firmly on the international agenda. After three weeks of negotiations the resolution was adopted by consensus on 27 September 2012 with 67 co-sponsors from all regions. The resolution makes a clear statement in condemning all forms of attacks and violence against journalists and calls on states to ensure accountability, by investigating such attacks, bringing perpetrators to justice and providing adequate remedies for victims. The resolution furthermore calls upon states to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists, specifying a number of concrete measures, and also encourages states to put in place voluntary protection programs for journalists at risk. Emphasizing the importance of good practices in the area of protection of journalists, the resolution also requests the OHCHR to prepare a compilation of such good practices for the 24th session of the Council.