CFOM and the BBC co-host meeting of news media to combat rise in journalists' deaths

Delegates at the CFOM-BBC symposiumForty-five international news organisations signed a “London Statement” calling for effective UN action to stop killings of journalists.

The Centre for Freedom of the Media, based at the University of Sheffield, and the BBC College of Journalism jointly hosted a ground-breaking Symposium on Media Responses to Matters of Life and Death on 18 October with the BBC’s College of Journalism in the BBC’s new London Headquarters, New Broadcasting House.

The keynote speaker, UNESCO’s Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development Guy Berger, thanked CFOM for initiating a “unique” media gathering”.

He invited the media to allocate more attention and resources to the task of countering the rising tide of killings and other attacks on journalists around the world, through consistent coverage, monitoring of the actions of governments and the UN itself, and assisting with the implementation  of a new UN Plan which he said could be a “game-changer”.

Harassment

The media’s activities, he said , would give an important boost to the efforts of the United  Nations and its agencies in the form of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s Director of Global News, cited the rise in the toll of deaths of BBC journalists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the harassment of its staff in Iran, and the current threats of violence against the BBC and a number of local journalists in Pakistan as evidence of increasing violence and threats to free reporting in many parts of the world.

That trend, he said, called for more proactive efforts by leading broadcasters and media of all kinds, on their own initiative and in support of the UN Plan.   

News editors and journalists from seventeen countries heard accounts from colleagues working in some of well-known danger zones about recent case of abductions, torture, mutilation and murders of journalists which have induced widespread fear among the media in Mexico, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Somalia and elsewhere. 

Impunity

UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization,  said 97 journalists have been killed in the first 9 months of 2012, making it one of the worst years on record for targeted killings. UNESCO states that in nine out of ten violent deaths of journalists the perpetrators are never brought to justice, and that this gives rise to a culture of impunity. 

The Symposium, which was chaired by CFOM’s international director William Horsley, resulted in agreement by  editors or executives of 45 international news organisations  to sign an eight-point “London Statement” of concern and engagement which calls for effective actions to stop the killings of journalists and to end impunity. 

The Statement will go before the United Nations on the occasion of the UN Inter-Agency Meeting on Safety of Journalists and Impunity, being held in Vienna on 22 and 23 November 2012:-

“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. 

In addition to the BBC, CFOM’s partners in arranging the Symposium were the World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA), the International Press Institute, Committee to Protect Journalists and the International News Safety Institute (INSI).

CFOM thanks the Open Society Foundations for its generous support for the Event.

The CFOM website and the BBC College of Journalism’s site both carry articles, blogs and other information related to the Symposium and the issues discussed there.

The 45 confirmed Signatories of the London Statement include:
African Editors Forum; Al Jazeera; Article 19; Association of Commercial Television in Europe; BBC Global News; Blue Dot Safety Training; Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI); Centre for Freedom of the Media, University of Sheffield; City University, London; CNN; Colombo Telegraph, Sri Lanka; Commonwealth Journalists Association; Commonwealth Media Group; Commonwealth Press Union Trust; Daily Telegraph, UK ; Dawn Newspaper, Pakistan; European Broadcasting Union; Federation of African Journalists; Frontline Club, London; Global Rolling News Live; Globo, Brazil; The Guardian, UK; Hurriyet Newspaper, Turkey; Index on Censorship; International News Safety Institute; International Press Institute; L Siglo de Torreon, Mexico; La Stampa Newspaper, Italy; Media Legal Defence Initiative; Philippines National Union of Journalists; Radio Netherlands Worldwide; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Rory Peck Trust; Sky News; Society of Editors, UK
Somali National Union of Journalists; Thomson Reuters; UNESCO IPDC Council - UK Representative Ivor Gaber; World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA); World Editors Forum.

Signed in a personal capacity:-
Dawood Azami, journalist and University of Westminster; Anabel Hernandez, Mexican journalist; Emin Milli, Azerbaijan writer; Hamid Mir, Geo TV presenter, Pakistan; Lorna Woods, Centre for Law Justice and Journalism, City University London.