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Sussex professor ensures UNESCO ramps up its response to international attacks on journalists


A Sussex professor has been leading the fight in the United Nations to secure the safety of journalists around the world.

Ivor Gaber, who is Professor of Political Journalism at the University of Sussex, represents Britain at UNESCO in Paris. UNESCO is the organisation charged with protecting journalists around the world. It has been coming under pressure from a number of governments - most notably Russia and Cuba - to rein back its work in this area. But Professor Gaber, working with colleagues from across Europe, led an eventually successful battle to ensure that the safety of journalists remains a UN priority.  

Professor Gaber, from the School of Media, Film and Music at the University of Sussex, has been representing the UK on this issue at UNESCO for ten years.

He said: “During my time at UNESCO I, along with colleagues, have succeeded in securing major breakthroughs, including getting the UN to take action on the safety of journalists. We’ve also helped to expose those governments that continue to give impunity to the killers of journalists, often in the teeth of opposition from governments that do not prioritise media freedom. I am pleased to say that the UK is now seen as one of the main defenders of journalists worldwide. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that this will be one of his priorities for 2019.”

The UN plan of action on the safety of journalists, which Professor Gaber is credited with initiating, involves training and monitoring journalists, courts, police and governments to ensure that protecting journalists is seen as a priority and that governments commit themselves to prosecuting the perpetrators.

More than 90% of the 1000 killings which have been condemned by UNESCO between 2006 and 2017 are still unsolved. Almost all were local journalists rather than foreign correspondents.

According to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 2018 has been one of the worst years for attacks on journalists, which included the notorious murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  President Trump’s rhetorical attacks on journalists have increased the risk of physical attacks on the press, UN experts have warned. 

Time magazine has declared journalist victims of violence and imprisonment as its 'Person of the Year' for 2018.

Professor Gaber's latest book, Culture Wars: the Media and the British Left, is recently published by Routledge. 

By: Anna Ford
Last updated: Thursday, 13 December 2018