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World Press Freedom Day meeting sounds the alarm at increasing attacks; declaration calls free media vital to future UN ‘development goals’

At the major gathering at UNESCO in Paris for 2014 World Press Freedom Day UNESCO launched itsWorld Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, including shocking evidence of many states’ persistent failure to find and punish those responsible for killings of journalists and other attacks that deprive societies of access to reliable and uncensored information.

The Declaration adopted at the meeting followed warnings that some States wish to step independent media and the free flow of information being formally enshrined as a major element for the first time in the UN’s development priorities when the Millennium Development Goals are replaced in 2016. 

Media and civil society leaders pressed for freedom of expression to be placed at the centre of future global development policy for the sake of good governance and universal rights and freedoms. Paris conference heard many concrete examples of the link between free and inquiring media and good governance, including the exposure of high-level official corruption. Among the striking data highlighted in the World Trends report was the disturbing fact that records show only 7 out of 430 cases of killings of journalists between 2007 and 2-12 resulted in any convictions of those responsible. 

This pervasive climate of impunity was described as the single biggest cause for the relentless increase in targeted attacks on journalists in recent years. In November 2014 UNESCO will conduct a detailed review of the record of UNESCO member states concerning judicial follow-ups after journalists’ killings. Leading NGOs have intensified their campaigns and efforts to improve this extremely poor record in dozens of countries. 

Governments have an absolute responsibility to prevent attacks on journalists and others who are threatened because of their reporting or publishing activities, and to end impunity by ensuring prompt, independent and effective investigations to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice.

A recent UN General Assemblyresolutionproclaimed 2 Novemberofficially as theInternational Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalistsand major events will take place around that date this year to strengthen protections for journalists against violence and intimidation and to uncover the corruption and abuse of power that lie behind cultures of impunity in too many UN member states.

Read details of the 2014 World Press Freedom Day events here.

View images from UNESCO’s international conference on World Press Freedom here

The AEJ’s media freedom representative William Horsley represented the AEJ at the Paris conference.