Top United Nations officials today urged better protection of journalists and greater efforts to ensure that those who kill or intimidate them are brought to justice, stressing that freedom of the press is a basic foundation of peace and democracy.
An inter-agency forum on the safety of journalists, hosted by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, heard calls for UN offices and entities to work more closely together to protect media professionals and fight impunity for their killers.
“Let us do our utmost to ensure that the media can do its indispensable work on behalf of humankind,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message to the forum, delivered on his behalf by Kiyo Akasaka, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.
He noted that cyber-surveillance, digital harassment and censorship of the Internet had emerged as new barriers to media freedom.
“The press can never be free if journalists and media workers are under attack. Those who murder, kidnap, harass, arrest or intimidate journalists not only stop the free flow of information, they stifle the ability of millions of people to have their stories told.
“Quite apart from the violence and the suffering such crimes bring, I am also dismayed when they are not thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. Only by putting an end to impunity can we break this vicious cycle,” said the Secretary-General.
Mr. Akasaka, for his part, highlighted the role the UN has played to uphold the freedoms of information, expression and association, which he described as fundamental principles in democratic societies.
The UN Department of Public Information (DPI), he said, uses mass communication tools – such as the Internet, television, photography, radio, print and social media – to uphold the principle of freedom of the press and to raise awareness on the issue.
The meeting was also addressed by the Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director-General.
Separately, Ms. Bokova issued statements condemning the recent killings of journalists in Peru and Honduras and demanding that the culprits brought to justice.
Peruvian journalist Pedro Alfonso Flores Silva died last Thursday from injuries sustained when he was shot by masked gunmen in the city of Casma the previous day. As the programme director of the local Canal 6 television, Flores Silva, 36, had been the target of repeated threats, according to the press freedom advocacy Reporters without Borders.
In Honduras, radio journalist Medardo Flores was gunned down near his home overnight on Thursday, bringing to 15 the number of media professionals murdered in that country over the past 18 months.