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United Nation. RSF calls for a special adviser on the safety of journalists

Reporters Without Borders hails today’s adoption by consensus of a new resolution on the safety of journalists by the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee.

RSF also calls for the appointment of a special adviser to the secretary-general to ensure that it is effectively implemented.

By Reporter sans frontières – Proposed by France, Greece, Austria, Argentina, Costa Rica and Tunisia and co-sponsored by more than 80 countries, the resolution is due to be definitively approved by the General Assembly next month.

The resolution contains similar advances to those in last year’s General Assembly resolution on the same subject but goes further on several points, namely in the range of abuses against journalists identified, on combatting impunity for crimes against journalists and on surveillance of their communications.

“This new resolution is positive,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “International resolutions are being adopted that are moving in the same direction, at least on paper, namely towards more security for journalists.

“But the reality on the ground has not changed. Journalists are still vulnerable and are still being targeted in connection with their reporting. A total of fifty-nine journalists have been killed since the start of the year. Governments must be required to provide an account of their concrete efforts to protect journalists and combat impunity.”

Deloire added: “The annual reports by the UN secretary-general  and UNESCO on the safety of journalists  provide an overview but we need to go much further. We call for the appointment of a special adviser to the secretary-general to monitor whether governments are complying with obligations in this area.”

Following in the wake of the resolution adopted on December 18, 2013, the new resolution reaffirms the concept of journalism as an activity that is evolving and now includes not only professional journalists but also “private individuals and a range of organizations that seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, online as well as offline.”

It reaffirms the obligation to protect journalists in both wartime and peacetime and stresses the need to “create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for journalists” and to conduct “impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations” into attacks against journalists and other news providers.

The resolution lists all the human rights violations and abuses that constitute a threat to the safety of journalists, not only killing, torture and enforced disappearance but also “arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention, expulsion, intimidation, harassment, threats and other forms of violence.”

This new resolution reinforces governments’ obligations to combat impunity, it mentions the June 2014 UN Human Rights Council panel on the safety of journalists, at which the special rapporteurs criticized a lack of political will on the part of governments, it points out that attacks against journalists are on the rise and it describes the fight against impunity as the “biggest challenge” for journalists’ safety.

Paragraph 8 urges governments to cooperate with UNESCO on a “voluntary basis” and to share information about investigations into attacks against journalists, while paragraph 7 refers to the good practices identified in the Human Rights Council resolution of 25 September 2014.

Like the Human Rights Council one, today’s resolution stresses “the particular vulnerability of journalists to becoming targets of unlawful or arbitrary surveillance or interception of communications in violation of their rights to privacy and to freedom of expression.”

It also calls for the release of all journalists who are being held hostage or who are the victims of enforced disappearance and says that not only journalists but also their families should receive compensation for acts of violence.

The creation of the post of a special adviser to the UN secretary-general on the safety of journalists is one of Reporters Without Borders recommendations on the safety of journalists.

On November 2, International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Reporters Without Borders drew attention to ten emblematic cases of impunity with the aim of involving the general public and stepping up pressure on governments to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.

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