The bomb found under the car of Pakistani journalist and TV talk show host Hamid Mir earlier this week highlighted the urgent need for governments to act to ensure the safety of journalists.
Only a month ago, at a symposium on this issue in London, Mir was telling of the death threats he and his colleagues were receiving daily. Messages were being sent directly to journalists' mobile phones and email accounts, because of their support for the blogger Malala. There was no evidence that the state was doing anything to protect the recipients.
“Where are the state security agents?” Mir asked at the time: “Why are they not intercepting these threatening messages and protecting journalists?”
That day Mir put his signature, alongside those of 40 media organizations and individual journalists, to the “London Statement”, an eight-point declaration that condemned killings and attacks against journalists and expressed dismay over the lack of government action.
It was presented to UNESCO in Vienna last week at a meeting on the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists. Civil society organisations also submitted recommendations as part of a unilateral effort to address the most serious threat to a free press worldwide.
“We are delighted that the United Nations recognizes that more needs to be done to ensure that journalists can carry out their work without fear of attack,” said Larry Kilman, Deputy CEO of WAN-IFRA. “More than 600 journalists have been killed in the past decade, and it is clear that many governments are failing in their responsibility to provide an environment where journalists can safely carry out their work.
“The key for the success of this plan will rest on the degree of cooperation from UN member states, who carry the responsibility of tackling a culture of impunity by bringing the attackers and killers of media professionals to justice. We hope the UN’s approach will contribute to more engagement from national authorities.” More information on the UN Plan can be found at the UNESCO website.
In Pakistan, it took a bomb, placed under Mir’s car on Monday, to eventually draw an offer of police protection.
Concerted action was too late for Brazilian editor Eduardo Carvalho, who was gunned down last week. His website, Ultima Hora News, frequently denounced local corruption in Mato Grosso do Sul state. Carvalho had received frequent threats and had survived a previous assassination attempt.