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United Nations urged to protect journalists’ safety and media freedom worldwide

The University of Sheffield's Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) and the BBC College of Journalism are today (22 November 2012) urging the United Nations (UN) to address the rising trend of violence against media workers and protect journalists' safety.

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Supported by more than 40 leading international editors and journalists, representing news organisations around the world, CFOM will present a statement urging the UN and its member states to take stronger action to stop the killing of journalists and other media workers and safeguard the future of free independent media.

CFOM’s International Director William Horsley and Chairman Professor Jackie Harrison from the University of Sheffield will hand over the “London Statement”, together with papers bearing the signatures of 46 leading media groups and frontline journalists, to a senior official of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), at the UN’s Vienna headquarters.

Professor Harrison and William Horsley will be accompanied by representatives of two leading international press freedom organisations, the International Press Institute (IPI) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The organisations have endorsed the London Statement along with the European Broadcasting Union and many of the world’s leading names in broadcasting and the press, including BBC Global News, CNN, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, El Globo of Brazil and Dawn- Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper.
The London Statement emerged out of discussions at a ground-breaking Symposium in London in October entitled: “Media Responses to Matters of Life and Death”, which was co-hosted by CFOM and the BBC College of Journalism.

The symposium heard UNESCO’s startling statistics that as many as 95 journalists had been deliberately killed on account of their work in the first nine months of 2012, making it one of the worst years on record. According to UNESCO in nine out of ten violent deaths of journalists the perpetrators are never brought to justice, giving rise to a widespread culture of impunity.

UNESCO is the lead Agency responsible for drawing up an ambitious UN-wide Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which was formally approved in April of this year. The Plan of Action aims to ensure a free and safe environment for the media in both conflict and non-conflict situations, as an essential condition for peace, democracy and development worldwide.

The eight point London Statement condemns all cases of killings, intimidation, abduction, harassment, wrongful imprisonment and other physical attacks of journalists and other media workers and expresses dismay at the failure of governments to end impunity for killers of journalists.

The editors, journalists and freedom of expression organisations who have signed the Statement also encourage all forms of media to scrutinise the behaviour of governments, to hold them to their commitments to uphold media freedom.

Professor Jackie Harrison, of the University of Sheffield's Department of Journalism Studies, said: "It is now of great importance that media organisations report and understand the significance of this opportunity to protect the lives and work of journalists worldwide and to ensure that violence, impunity and injustice against journalists do not continue to thrive on silence.

"CFOM is committed to continue to support international efforts to assure the future of independent newsgathering and reporting and to co-operate with other institutions to see how the teaching of journalism can include a comprehensive understanding of the harsh environment in which much journalism operates".

The London Statement and a video of highlights from the London Symposium are on the Agenda for consideration on 22 and 23 November 2012 at the UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the UN Plan of Action in Vienna.

The agenda of the Vienna meeting is to set out effective mechanisms and a timetable for implementing the UN Plan, with the participation of media and civil society organisations as well as UN member states and all the relevant UN bodies.

The Vienna conference is being hosted jointly by UNESCO, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Additional information

The London Statement
The 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.

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA), the International Press Institute, Committee to Protect Journalists and the International News Safety Institute (INSI) also worked with CFOM and the BBC on the symposium.

CFOM

The Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) is an interdisciplinary research centre based at the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield that studies issues of media freedom and standards.

The founding principle of CFOM is to illuminate where news media freedom is undermined or abused and to examine news media standards of independence and truthfulness.

CFOM works with a range of external stakeholders to evaluate the role of free and independent news media in building and maintaining political and civil freedoms worldwide. Current research aims to provide an independent platform to assess the effectiveness of existing legal, political and institutional safeguards against violence directed at journalists, to present the case for more effective international mechanisms to counter such crimes of violence and to end impunity; to evaluate the state of media freedom in Europe, to analyse news media freedom, regulation and civil power and to assess news media standards and self-censorship.

For more information about the Centre for Freedom of the Media visit CFOM

The BBC College of Journalists
To find out more about the BBC College of Journalists visit Journalism

The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.

The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

Contact

For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859
a.l.pullan@sheffield.ac.uk