Broadcasters attending the United Nations-backed fourth World Electronic Media Forum (WEMF 4) have called for sustained and concrete global action to address the murder of journalists in peacetime and in war.
“Most journalists are killed not in war zones but in their own countries as they try to shine the light of the truth into the darkest recesses of their societies,” they said in a declaration adopted unanimously at the end of a two-day meeting in Mexico City.
More journalists have been killed in Mexico this year than in any other country in the Western hemisphere, many of them for reporting on drug trafficking and related corruption.
According to the International Press Institute (IPI), seven media professionals have been murdered in Mexico this year, the most recent being a journalist whose body was found earlier this month, as well as a radio presenter killed last month.
The murders were strongly condemned by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is tasked with defending press freedom, and which called on the relevant authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
The declaration adopted at the Forum put the onus on governments, which it stated “are primarily responsible for the safety of all their citizens, including those in the news media? They have a responsibility to protect those citizens, pursue their killers and ensure freedom of expression.”
During the Forum, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka voiced the UN's concern for the safety of journalists worldwide, while stressing the need to ensure freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
“Your continued vigilance in this area – and the safeguarding of this human right – is essential to the future and expansion of an information-based society,” he stated.
Like its three predecessors – in Geneva (2003), Tunis (2005) and Kuala Lumpur (2007) – WEMF 4 was organized by the world's eight regional broadcasting unions.
Apart from the safety of media professionals, the meeting also addressed the relation between broadband and broadcasting, electronic journalism and citizen reporters, and the value of archives and the cost of preserving them.