The escalating and disturbing threat to the safety of journalists drew together an extraordinary group of editors, frontline journalists, professionals and press freedom monitoring groups from the global media community at the BBC College of Journalism in London yesterday.
They signed an eight point declaration to express concern and demand action from governments to stop the killing and harassment and to end impunity.
The World Editors Forum and WAN-IFRA, representing editors, publishers and news organisations in 120 countries, signed the London Declaration ahead of the United Nations Vienna Inter-Agency meeting with media and journalist organisations on 22-23 November.
In a move of rare solidarity, representatives from major newspapers and broadcasters in some of the most dangerous countries for journalists, including Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, Sri Lanka and Somalia, agreed that threats, both physical and legal must end.
A rare window of opportunity for global action had opened up ahead of the UN meeting which will focus on practical ways to implement the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists at country, regional and local level.
Rodney Pinder of the International News Safety Institute said was critical that the campaign for safety gather momentum. But the key to success was for governments adhere to laws already in place, such as the Geneva Convention, governing war and peace, and laws prohibiting murder. The cheapest form of censorship was murder and harassment, he added.
Peter Horrocks, the BBC's director of World News said the BBC faced threats on a number of levels, including jamming of its signals in Europe from Syria, Iran putting pressure on members of the families of people who worked for its Persian service, legal threats and direct threats of violence by the Taliban. "We should salute the bravery of those journalists having to work with those threats" but it should be remembered that it was local news organisations who were most threatened.
Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández (pictured), who was awarded the 2012 Golden Pen of Freedom by WAN-IFRA for her work exposing corruption and the drug cartels, despite direct death threats, said many journalists in Mexico considered the culture of killing as a normal part of their job. To change the culture of violence would require action from not only governments but from society too, she said.
“LONDON STATEMENT” BY MEMBERS OF THE GLOBAL MEDIA COMMUNITY ON
THE SAFETY OF JOURNALISTS AND THE ISSUE OF IMPUNITY
We, members of the global media community, gathered in London on 18 October 2012:
- Condemn all cases of killings and other physical attacks, intimidation, harassment, abduction and wrongful imprisonment as well as other forms of oppression of journalists and other media workers;
- Express our dismay at the failure of many governments to end impunity for the killers of journalists;
- Register our disappointment and concern at the lack of effectiveness of previous United Nations interventions including UNSC Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists in conflict and an end to impunity;
- Affirm that the right of journalists and media workers to work free from harm, harassment and abuse is fundamental to freedom of expression and therefore a matter of urgent and legitimate concern for governments and societies around the world as well as the news media themselves;
- Welcome the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and declare that this historic commitment should fulfil the high expectations to which it gives rise;
- Express our strong concern that in carrying forward the Plan of Action, the UN system, as well as other relevant national and international bodies, should operate effectively and in accountable ways to persuade Member States to create safe environments for working journalists;
- Encourage all news media to monitor regularly the actions of their governments, judicial authorities and other institutions in implementing the Plan and ending impunity;
- Propose that the acute concerns of the news media for meaningful and practical actions are fully and seriously taken into account at the UN Inter-Agency Meeting being held in Vienna in November and thereafter in the effective implementation of the UN Plan.
LONDON STATEMENT SIGNATORIES (as of 18 October)
International news media membership organisations
Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACTE) – Ross Biggam, Director-General (In absentia)
European Broadcasting Union – Jeff Dubin, Head of News
International News Safety Institute (INSI) – Rodney Pinder, Director
International Press Institute (IPI) – President of the Board, Galina Sidorova
Society of Editors (UK Media) – Director, Bob Satchwell – (In absentia)
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) - Larry Kilman, Deputy CEO
World Editors Forum – Director, Cherilyn Ireton
BBC Global News - Peter Horrocks, Director
Colombo Telegraph, Sri Lanka – Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, London Correspondent
Dawn Newspaper, Pakistan - Zaffar Abbas, Editor in chief
El Globo, Brazil – Marcos Losekann, London Bureau Chief
Global Rolling News Live – Henry Peirse, CEO
Hurriyet Newspaper, Turkey – Sedat Ergin, columnist
El Siglo de Torreon Newspaper, Mexico - Editorial Director, Javier Garza (In absentia)
La Stampa – Editor in Chief , Mario Calabresi
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – Joanna Levison, Senior Media Adviser
Radio Netherlands Worldwide - Deputy Director, Lem van Eupen
Journalists and journalists' organisations
Dawood Azami, journalist and University of Westminster (in personal capacity)
Commonwealth Journalists Association - President, Rita Payne
Commonwealth Media Group – Elizabeth Smith, Chairperson (In absentia)
Federation of African Journalists - President, Omar Faruk Osman (also on behalf of Somali National Union of Journalists)
Anabel Hernandez, investigative journalist, Mexico
Hamid Mir, Executive Editor, Geo News TV, Pakistan (in personal capacity)
Emin Milli, Writer and blogger, Azerbaijan
Media freedom and journalists support organisations
Africa Editors Forum – Elizabeth Barrett, Secretary-General
Article 19 – Barbora Bukovska, Director of Law and Policy
Blue Dot Media Safety Training – Paul Bradford , Managing Director
Brazil Association of Investigative Journalists (ABRAJI)– Veridiana Sedeh, Adviser
Committee to Protect Journalists - Jean-Paul Marthoz, Senior Adviser
Commonwealth Press Union Trust - Chairman Lord Guy Black (In absentia)
Centre for Freedom of the Media, University of Sheffield (William Horsley and Jackie Harrison)
Frontline Club – John Owen, Chairman
Media Legal Defence Initiative – Peter Noorlander, Chief Executive
UK Representative on the UNESCO IPDC Council – Ivor Gaber