News / Africa

UNESCO Acts to Ensure Journalists' Safety

William Eagle
The UN cultural agency, UNESCO, is calling for greater protections for the world’s journalists. It’s been joined by a number of international press freedom organizations.

The UN agency says 121 journalists were killed worldwide in 2012, almost twice the numbers from 2010 and 2011. 
 
The call is part of its observance of World Press Freedom Day.
                        
UNESCO and its partners are focusing on enhancing safety and combating impunity for crimes committed against journalists.
 
Last March, gunmen in Dar-es-Salaam attacked and beat Tanzanian editor Absalom Kibanda into unconsciousness.  The Media Institute of Southern Africa reports he lost teeth, nails and an eye. 

Hostile forces
 
His case in not unusual: Organizations note that few of the attacks are ever prosecuted, encouraging a culture of impunity for assaults on reporters – and freedom of expression. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, says 80 murders of journalists in Africa have remained unsolved since 1992.  Meanwhile, 41 African journalists will be marking World Press Freedom Day in prison.
 
The CPJ says the five countries with largest numbers of unsolved cases were Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Colombia…Nigeria was #11. 

Burundian journalist Hassan Ruvakuki received a life sentence on October 18, 2012. Authorities charged him with terrorism after he was convicted of planning then documenting a rebel attack in the eastern Cankuzo province neighbouring Tanzania. AFP PHOTO/Esdras NdikumanaBurundian journalist Hassan Ruvakuki received a life sentence on October 18, 2012. Authorities charged him with terrorism after he was convicted of planning then documenting a rebel attack in the eastern Cankuzo province neighbouring Tanzania. AFP PHOTO/Esdras Ndikumana
x
Burundian journalist Hassan Ruvakuki received a life sentence on October 18, 2012. Authorities charged him with terrorism after he was convicted of planning then documenting a rebel attack in the eastern Cankuzo province neighbouring Tanzania. AFP PHOTO/Esdras Ndikumana
Burundian journalist Hassan Ruvakuki received a life sentence on October 18, 2012. Authorities charged him with terrorism after he was convicted of planning then documenting a rebel attack in the eastern Cankuzo province neighbouring Tanzania. AFP PHOTO/Esdras Ndikumana
The forces arrayed against journalists include hostile governments, organized crime, and armed militants. Many reporters and media workers die in conflict areas, but most are threatened, intimidated or killed while reporting local stories.
 
CPJ’s Mohamed Keita  says in recent years, citizen journalists and bloggers have joined traditional reporters as targets.
 
"In places like Sudan," says Keita, "a lot of citizen reporters have been arrested for filming demonstrations and getting the word out. We’ve seen the same in Angola, which also experienced anti-government protests. In Ethiopia, they arrested citizen reporters for sending text messages and people attempting to upload footage via the social media. [An Ethiopian journalist] was also arrested for blogging about the Arab Spring.  And, Zimbabwe prosecuted a man for posting a political comment on Facebook in 2011."

Outside forces
 
The CPJ Africa expert says that outside forces are also contributing to the problem.
 
"Just recently," he says, "it was reported that the Nigerian government has awarded an Israeli surveillance company a contract to intercept telecommunications of civilians in Nigeria"

"We know the Chinese company ZTE is heavily involved in Africa," he continued. "In the case of Ethiopia, ZTE got the contract to overhaul the country’s telecom infrastructure and increase and improve services. Shortly after that, we noticed the first reports of web sites being blocked in the country. We’ve also heard allegations that some Western and French companies have transferred surveillance technologies to governments in francophone Africa."

Ethiopian columnist Eskinder Nega was charged with being a dangerous individual bent on violent revolution. He is serving 18 years in prison. (Eskinder Nega / CPJ photo illustration)Ethiopian columnist Eskinder Nega was charged with being a dangerous individual bent on violent revolution. He is serving 18 years in prison. (Eskinder Nega / CPJ photo illustration)
x
Ethiopian columnist Eskinder Nega was charged with being a dangerous individual bent on violent revolution. He is serving 18 years in prison. (Eskinder Nega / CPJ photo illustration)
Ethiopian columnist Eskinder Nega was charged with being a dangerous individual bent on violent revolution. He is serving 18 years in prison. (Eskinder Nega / CPJ photo illustration)
UNESCO and press rights groups are aiming to beef up measures protecting the free press with the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. 
 
Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, says police and law enforcement officers must understand that attacks against the press are attacks against democracy. Karklins says an independent press is just as important as the three pillars of democracy: the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.  
 
"Journalists represent what we call the Fourth Power (or Estate)," says Karklins, "and they should be as equally protected [as the other branches of government] in a given country. Today we do not see that this is the case everywhere. We are also working with governments to make sure all legislative frameworks that exist [to protect freedom of expression and of the press] are empowered and used properly."

Armed gunmen attacked Mohamed Ahmed Jama, the owner of the Hubaal Media Network in Somaliland on April 30. (Hubaal Media Network)Armed gunmen attacked Mohamed Ahmed Jama, the owner of the Hubaal Media Network in Somaliland on April 30. (Hubaal Media Network)
x
Armed gunmen attacked Mohamed Ahmed Jama, the owner of the Hubaal Media Network in Somaliland on April 30. (Hubaal Media Network)
Armed gunmen attacked Mohamed Ahmed Jama, the owner of the Hubaal Media Network in Somaliland on April 30. (Hubaal Media Network)
Karklins says UNESCO is asking governments to voluntarily provide information on the results of investigations of killings of journalists. It’s also working with the corporate media and journalists’ associations to help train reporters to operate in a hostile environment.
 
"We are working with their publishers and employers to make sure employers are not misusing journalists and not sending part-time journalists, or freelancers, to dangerous places without providing them with necessary protection," says Karklins.. "This is also the obligation of the employer to provide necessary protection to their journalists when they are doing their work."

Training for hostile environments

One group helping to train journalists is the International News Safety Institute in London.  INSI, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary today, World Press Freedom Day, works to provide practical safety advice and information for journalists working in types of dangerous environments. That advice includes how best to prepare and plan for their deployments in a way that reduces risk.
 
Director Hanna Storm says the institute also teaches traditional reporters, free lancers and bloggers how to protect records of contacts.  Such records can easily be hacked by governments or outside groups.  Reporters’ cell phones can also be accessed to reveal their locations.
 
"Say for instance you happen to update your Facebook status with a comment on where you are or you tweet something about someone appearance or presence, or someone’s [potential] death," she says.  "All that can have massive ramifications on the safety of individuals and particularly of local fixers and journalists."

UNESCO World Press Freedom Day logo 2013 (UNESCO)UNESCO World Press Freedom Day logo 2013 (UNESCO)
x
UNESCO World Press Freedom Day logo 2013 (UNESCO)
UNESCO World Press Freedom Day logo 2013 (UNESCO)
Her institute is also working to protect hundreds of journalists who live in exile.
 
"Our special report [for this inter-agency plan] is looking at issues of good practice where governments and civil society groups can work to support exiled journalists with safe houses, support their re-integration into societies, provide support for their families, and some degree of mentoring if they need to change their job and put some sort of network in place for journalists have faced similar issues and threats," she says.
 
UNESCO’s action plan also calls for access to health care and life insurance for journalists.
 
And, it calls for member states to end any statute of limitations on those guilty of crimes against freedom of expression and to remove defamation as a criminal action. 
 
Mohamed Keita of the Committee Protect Journalists says safeguarding freedom of the press benefits development.   Good reporting can expose corruption and mismanagement that reduces economic growth and can lead to political instability. But human rights groups journalists are paying a high price to do their job. 

Listen to report on Africa and World Press Freedom Day
Listen to report on Africa and World Press Freedom Day i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mourin from: USA
May 04, 2013 8:14 AM
hey how many time have we seen "journalists" taking active part in terrorist activities... remember Hamas "journalists"... "Palestinian Journalists"... if we give Journalists special protection, don't be surprised if all Gaza, Hamas, Hezbullah, Al Nusra, Al Qaieda Terrorists suddenly become "Journalists"

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs