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Journalism professor fighting for international protection of all media workers in face of diplomatic opposition

Ivor Gaber, Professor of Political Journalism, defending the United Nations’ Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists at UNESCO meeting in Paris.

A University of Sussex academic is leading the fight to better protect journalists around the world in the wake of one of the most deadly years for the profession at a high-level meeting being held this week in Paris.

Ivor Gaber, Professor of Political Journalism at the University of Sussex, is currently playing a leading role at UNESCO Headquarters in defending the United Nations’ Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.

The UK and its’ allies are attempting to prevent attempts by some countries to restrict the reach and effectiveness of the UN Action Plan.

Opposition moves include attempting to limit protections to just “journalists” as opposed to the current UN wording incorporating all media workers and social media journalists. There are also attempts to remove the particular focus on protecting women journalists who historically have been specifically targeted by violence and threats.

The plan came about as a result of a UK initiative at UNESCO. It seeks to protect journalists in vulnerable situations and to tackle the issue of the impunity that some governments offer the perpetrators of such attacks.

Speaking on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, Professor Gaber told the UNESCO Executive Board meeting: “Media freedom is the lifeblood of democracy and economic prosperity. A free and independent media plays a vital role in the protection of human rights and in holding the powerful to account.

“The UK strongly welcomes the ongoing work by UNESCO in support of media freedom and this report on Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity. We urge all member states to support UNESCO’s work in this area and comply in full with the requests made in the report.

“As highlighted in the report, journalists are at increasing risk across the world and not only where there is conflict. Reporters Without Borders has called 2018 the deadliest year for journalists. This is unacceptable. We must reverse this appalling trend by working together to assert an international taboo against attacks on journalists and to end impunity.

“The UK condemns all attacks against journalists and notes with concern the increasing percentage of women journalists amongst those killed and attacked. We strongly support the sustained focus by UNESCO on this issue.

“The UK welcomes the ongoing events hosted by UNESCO to raise the profile of the threats facing media freedom, such as World Press Freedom Day. To build on the work already being undertaken by UNESCO and other international organisations, we have launched a major campaign to promote media freedom and together with Canada will be hosting a major international conference on media freedom in London on 10-11 July for government ministers, NGOs and journalists.”

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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Wednesday, 8 May 2019