Sheffield researchers join UNESCO's new drive against journalist attacks

Ending Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists day 2 November 2015Through the work of its research centre, the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM), the Department of Journalism Studies is currently involved in a series of important events to protect journalists – in Sheffield, London and Costa Rica.

CFOM works in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to promote the safety and liberty of journalists worldwide, in the face of a worrying rise in attacks. The organisation's chair is Professor Jackie Harrison, joint head of the Department of Journalism Studies.

At home in Sheffield the centre hosts a debate, Journalism in Danger, at the city's Crucible Theatre on 11 November.

Chaired by CFOM's international director William Horsley, the event will bring together professionals from the journalism and the media, higher education, NGOs and research bodies in a panel discussion, with the audience invited to submit questions in advance.

Next steps

In the run-up to Journalism in Danger – which forms part of Sheffield's annual Off the Shelf festival of reading and writing – CFOM will jointly host another event at the Houses of Parliament.

The London event – 'Stop the killing of journalists!' – marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, established two years ago by a United Nations resolution following work by UNESCO and CFOM.

Prominent journalists, international lawyers, NGOs and policymakers will consider the next steps necessary to eradicate legal impunity for those behind attacks on journalists. The event takes place on 2 November and is organised jointly by UNESCO, CFOM, PEN International and Article 19.

In nine out of ten cases the killers of journalists go unpunished. UNESCO argues that this "climate of impunity" leads to more killings and damages whole societies

CFOM has already been a partner at a two-day conference in San José, Costa Rica, where delegates from judicial systems around the world pooled their experience in holding to account those responsible for crimes against journalists.

The event took place on 9 and 10 October and was organised jointly by UNESCO and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Climate of impunity

Jackie Harrison said: "Our aim is to discover what journalists know about the UN action plan and if enough is being done to prevent people escaping punishment. We want to know what editors feel about the safety of their own journalists, given that many are being threatened and sometimes killed. Where journalists are not free they are at risk, and are more likely to be attacked, intimidated or jailed."

The UN resolution establishing the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists urges member states to bring to justice the perpetrators of these attacks and to do their utmost to ensure that journalists can do their work safely.

In the past decade 700 journalists have been killed in the course of their work. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished. UNESCO argues that this "climate of impunity" leads to more killings and damages whole societies by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption and crime.