UNESCO reiterates duty to protect safety of journalists covering demonstrations
Paris: Concerned by the growing numbers of report on acts of violence against journalists during demonstrations, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has reiterated the principle whereby “freedom of expression is a vitally important component of democracy, and journalists’ reporting on events is essential to press freedom and to the right to information.”
Recent waves of protest around the world have highlighted the problem posed by cases of excessive use of force by law enforcement agents on reporters: reporters have been killed or injured by rubber bullets, others, engaged in live coverage of demonstrations, have been detained or charged for failing to disperse, and professional equipment has been confiscated or destroyed.
Yet, understanding demonstrators’ grievances and the response of the authorities and of law enforcement agents is central to reporters’ work, as is their ability to provide live coverage of events.
UNESCO and its partners regularly provide training to officials who deal with journalists to help them understand and respect the vital contribution of the media to democracy and the fundamental human right of freedom of expression.
Since 2013, UNESCO has provided online courses on freedom of expression to more than 3,400 law enforcement agents in 17 countries and close to 17,000 judges and members of the judiciary in Africa and Latin America. The beneficiaries of such training, which includes interaction with journalists, have found it contributed significantly to mutual understanding and to more peaceful interaction. These educational resources need to be boosted and disseminated globally as protests continue worldwide.
In mi-July, UNESCO will publish a special report on the protection of journalists during demonstrations, marches and riots, part of its World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development collection.
Freedom of expression is enshrined in UNESCO’s Constitution. Within the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, UNESCO promotes the safety of media professionals and global awareness-raising, endeavouring to ensure that the media and the judiciary can carry out their respective work in good conditions.