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IRIS 2018-1:1/1

United Nations

Resolution on safety of journalists

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Emmanuel Vargas Penagos

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 13 November 2017, the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted a Resolution regarding the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. This Resolution calls upon States to take comprehensive action towards ending impunity for attacks against the press. Moreover, the Resolution has a focus on the specific risks faced by women journalists in the exercise of their work. Furthermore, the Resolution reiterates commitments on the part of States regarding the release of detained journalists, improvement of media freedom matters within legal frameworks, and protection of digital safety, and calls upon all States to cease and refrain from measures that intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online and offline with the aim of undermining the work of journalists in informing the public.

The Resolution refers to commitments and issues arising from previous instruments, such as Resolution 33/2 of the Human Rights Council on the safety of journalists (see IRIS 2016-10/1). Among other matters, the Resolution includes commitments on the part of states to condemn violence and attacks against journalists, ensure proper investigations and systematically collect data to use in policy making on the safety of journalists.

The focus of the Resolution on women journalists in particular reflects the Secretary General’s recent report on the safety of journalists (and its particular focus on the safety of women journalists) and the concern of the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression on violence against women (see IRIS 2017-1/4). In this regard, the Resolution acknowledges the specific risks faced by women journalists while doing their work. In the same vein, the Resolution underlines the importance of taking a gender-sensitive approach to measures to address the safety of journalists in physical and online spheres. This includes tackling gender-based discrimination (including violence, inequality and gender-based stereotypes) and enabling women journalists to enter and remain in journalism on equal terms with men. The Resolution also calls upon States to create and maintain safe and enabling environments for journalists. This includes training and awareness-raising measures for the judiciary, law enforcement officers and military personnel. Moreover, on digital matters the Resolution emphasises that encryption and anonymity tools have become vital for many journalists (for example, in securing their communications and protecting the confidentiality of their sources), and calls upon States not to interfere with the use of such technologies and to ensure that any restrictions thereon comply with States’ obligations under international human rights law.

Finally, the Resolution urges the immediate and unconditional release of journalists and media workers who have been arbitrarily arrested, arbitrarily detained or taken hostage or who have become victims of enforced disappearances, and moreover calls upon states to pay attention to the safety of journalists covering protests.

United Nations General Assembly Third Committee, The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, A/C.3/72/L.35/Rev.1, 13 November 2017 EN
United Nations General Assembly, Report of the Secretary-General, The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, 4 August 2017 EN