South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights


Published in The Nation – Pakistan on Nov. 23 ::

A committee of the UN General Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution on the safety of journalists that calls on States to promote a safe environment to journalists to work independently.

Proposed by France, Greece, Austria, Argentina, Costa Rica and Tunisia and co-sponsored by more than 80 countries, the resolution will come up for endorsement by the 193-Assembly next month.

The resolution, which was adopted without a vote by the Assembly’s Third Committeee,  contains similar advances to those in last year’s General Assembly resolution on the same subject, but goes further on several points, namely in the range of abuses against journalists identified, on combating impunity for crimes against journalists and on surveillance of their communications. (The Committee deals with social, humanitarian and cultural matters.)

‘Reporters Without Borders’ hailed the adoption of the resolution, and called for the appointment of a special adviser to the UN secretary-general to ensure that it is effectively implemented.

The resolution “condemns unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations”.

The updated resolution reaffirms the concept of journalism as an activity that is evolving and now includes not only professional journalists but also “private individuals and a range of organizations that seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, online as well as offline.”

It reaffirms the obligation to protect journalists in both wartime and peacetime and stresses the need to “create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for journalists” and to conduct “impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations” into attacks against journalists and other news providers.

The resolution lists all the human rights violations and abuses that constitute a threat to the safety of journalists, not only killing, torture and enforced disappearance but also “arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention, expulsion, intimidation, harassment, threats and other forms of violence.”

Reinforcing governments’ obligations to combat impunity, it mentions the June 2014 UN Human Rights Council panel on the safety of journalists, at which the special rapporteurs criticized a lack of political will on the part of governments, it points out that attacks against journalists are on the rise and it describes the fight against impunity as the “biggest challenge” for journalists’ safety.

One operative paragraph of the text urges governments to cooperate with UNESCO on a “voluntary basis” and to share information about investigations into attacks against journalists, while another refers to the good practices identified in the Human Rights Council resolution of 25 September 2014.

Like the Human Rights Council one, Friday’s resolution stresses “the particular vulnerability of journalists to becoming targets of unlawful or arbitrary surveillance or interception of communications in violation of their rights to privacy and to freedom of expression.”

It also calls for the release of all journalists who are being held hostage.