Photo: News organizations standing up for the safety of media professionals. Credit: UNESCO

Photo: News organizations standing up for the safety of media professionals. Credit: UNESCO - Photo: 2016

UNESCO Promotes Journalists’ Safety and Coverage of Refugees

By Guy Berger, Director, IPDC Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

PARIS (IDN) – Media development matters moved ahead at the 60th anniversary meeting of the Bureau of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

The two-day (March 17-18) meeting of eight Member States, chaired by the Netherlands, focused attention on contemporary media issues, including the Sustainable Development Goals, security of journalists, gender equality, and the refugee crisis.

An evaluation report about IPDC’s contribution to the safety of journalism, discussed at the meeting, noted: “Never has the UN advanced so much on the issue of journalistic safety in so little time as in recent years.”

Almost $900 000 in funding was allocated to 51 media development projects worldwide, and six other initiatives focused on ending impunity for attacks on journalists.

Also registered was the success in advocating, under IPDC auspices, for freedom of expression concerns within the new sustainable development agenda. The result is that “public access to information and fundamental freedoms” is now an explicit target within the Sustainable Development Goals – in number 16.10.

IPDC has worked with a wide alliance of partners who have achieved support for a related indicator, which focuses on the “number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months”.

UNESCO already collects part of this information through the Report of the Director-General to the IPDC Council. This document constitutes the official UN data on killings of journalists and the state of judicial follow up in the countries concerned.

This monitoring mechanism was strengthened at the recent Bureau meeting, with financial allocations made for activities to publicise the system, document best practices in monitoring safety and impunity, and build capacity for Member States to better contribute to the Report.

From 16 out of 57 countries (28%) in 2014 responding to the UNESCO request for information, the figure rose to 27 out of 57 (47%) countries last year. The IPDC Bureau hoped to see the trend continue.

The Bureau also discussed the evaluation report of the IPDC’s contribution to journalists’ security, especially since the IPDC’s initiation in 2012 of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The report concluded that IPDC had made a strong difference, including through small grants to influential projects.  One example was an online training course for the judicial system in Mexico, that was later expanded to other Latin American countries.

According to the report, a response by one of the participants was an example of the relevance: “Having been the prosecutor on a few cases related to the killing of journalists, I have realized the profound implication of those crimes for the whole society.”

The IPDC Bureau also hosted a debate on media coverage of migrants and refugees. The speakers included Melissa Fleming, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Aidan White, editor of Moving Stories – a global survey on how  media cover migration.

Academics on the panel were Guita Hourani of Lebanon, Nevin Yildiz Tahincioglu of Turkey, and Jacco van Sterkenburg from the Netherlands.

The speakers noted the global character of these population movements, and gave specific analyses of the failures of coverage in Lebanon, Turkey and Europe. The evidence that few journalists were trained or specialised in the subject, led to the Bureau allocating an amount of funds for building capacity in this area.

The IPDC, which has adopted Gender-Sensitive Media Indicators, also tackled current issues around developing women’s equality in and through media. Bureau members called for all projects presented to it for support to be gender-sensitive. This refers to disaggregating gender data in terms of problem analysis, project design and targeted beneficiaries.

Whether additional priority should be given to projects which go further than sensitivity, and which seek to transform gender-inequality in the media, was also debated. The issue will be taken up at the IPDC Council meeting on November 17-18, 2016.

Reports were also provided to the IPDC Bureau about the secretariat’s research work in applying the Media Development Indicators in Curaçao, Jordan, Libya, South Sudan, Madagascar, Mongolia and Swaziland.

Also discussed were the Journalists’ Safety Indicators being applied in a number of countries including Nepal, Kenya and Iraq.

IPDC was set up in 1980 as the UN’s specialized intergovernmental programme to mobilize international support in for strengthening the capacities of free and independent media. Since its creation, IPDC has channeled more than US$105 million to over 1,700 media development projects in 140 countries.

Algeria, Bangladesh, Peru, Poland, Denmark, Niger, Ghana and the Netherlands make up the members of the 2015-16 Bureau, as elected by the 39 Member State IPDC Council in November 2014.

Among the donors to the IPDC are Norway, Finland, Andorra, Germany, Ghana, Netherlands, Thailand, and Bangladesh. During the Bureau meeting, a number of other states expressed interest in supporting the work of the Programme. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 March 2016]

IDN is the flagship of International Press Syndicate.

Photo: News organizations standing up for the safety of media professionals. Credit: UNESCO

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