The Centre for Freedom of the Media and the BBC College of Journalism jointly hosted a Symposium on Media Responses to Matters of Life and Death on 18 October in the BBC’s new London Headquarters at New Broadcasting House. Senior figures from leading international media titles mostly set aside scepticism about the value of UN interventions.
They voiced acute, often passionate, concerns about the rising toll of deaths, injuries and imprisonment of journalists worldwide. The BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Globo of Brazil, La Stampa of Italy, The Guardian, Dawn newspaper of Pakistan and more than 30 other news organisations including Colombo Telegraph, agreed to sign a London Statement of concern and of engagement with a newly-hatched UN-wide plan to shore up safeguards for media freedom – not only for journalism but also to enable people everywhere to speak without fear.
The London Statement will be formally presented, together with a video of extracts from the London Symposium, to the UN Inter-Agency Meeting on Safety of Journalists and Impunity being held in Vienna on 22 and 23 November 2012.
Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s Director of Global News, said that major news organisations have a responsibility to be more directly engaged in efforts to secure the freedom of the media to report, both within countries and across borders.
UNESCO’s Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development Guy Berger, called the media gathering “unique”.
He told the 60 editors, journalists and experts present that everyone – journalists, editors, media owners and managers – should “up their game” on safety issues.
The alternative, he warned, was that enemies of free speech would be further emboldened to use “weapons of death” to silence criticism.
THE “LONDON STATEMENT” by members of the global media community on the Safety of Journalists and the Fight against Impunity
Addressed to the UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in Vienna on 22-23 November 2012, organized by UNESCO and co-hosted by the United Nations Development Program, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
We, members of the global media community, gathered in London on 18 October 2012:
Condemn all cases of killings and other physical attacks, intimidation, harassment, abduction and wrongful imprisonment as well as other forms of oppression of journalists and other media workers;
Express our dismay at the failure of many governments to end impunity for the killers of journalists;
Register our disappointment and concern at the lack of effectiveness of previous United Nations interventions including UNSC Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists in conflict and an end to impunity;
Affirm that the right of journalists and media workers to work free from harm, harassment and abuse is fundamental to freedom of expression and therefore a matter of urgent and legitimate concern for governments and societies around the world as well as the news media themselves;
Welcome the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and declare that this historic commitment should fulfil the high expectations to which it gives rise;
Express our strong concern that in carrying forward the Plan of Action, the UN system, as well as other relevant national and international bodies, should operate effectively and in accountable ways to persuade Member States to create safe environments for working journalists;
Encourage all news media to monitor regularly the actions of their governments, judicial authorities and other institutions in implementing the Plan and ending impunity;
Propose that the acute concerns of the news media for meaningful and practical actions are fully and seriously taken into account at the UN Inter-Agency Meeting being held in Vienna in November and thereafter in the effective implementation of the UN Plan.
Signatories of the London Statement;
the African Editors Forum; Article 19; Association of Commercial Television in Europe; BBC Global News; Blue Dot Safety Training; Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI); Centre for Freedom of the Media, University of Sheffield; City University, London; CNN, Colombo Telegraph, Sri Lanka; Commonwealth Journalists Association; Commonwealth Media Group; Commonwealth Press Union Trust; Dawn Newspaper, Pakistan; European Broadcasting Union; Federation of African Journalists; Frontline Club, London; Global Rolling News Live; Globo, Brazil; The Guardian; Hurriyet Newspaper, Turkey; Index on Censorship; International News Safety Institute; International Press Institute; L Siglo de Torreon, Mexico; La Stampa Newspaper; Media Legal Defence Initiative; Philippines National Union of Journalists; Radio Netherlands Worldwide; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Sky News; Somali National Union of Journalists; Society of Editors, UK; Thomson Reuters; World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA); World Editors Forum; Dawood Azami, journalist; Ivor Gaber, journalist and UNESCO IPDC Council UK Representative; Anabel Hernandez, Mexican journalist; Emin Milli, Azerbaijan writer; and Hamid Mir, Geo TV presenter, Pakistan. Signatures are awaited from other news organisations which expressed an intention to endorse the Statement after further consideration.