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Interactive panel discussion of the 2019 High Level Political Forum "Why the Safety of Journalists is Crucial to Achieving SDG 16 and How Monitoring Systems Contribute to it"

Intervention by Ambassador Dr. Dionyssios Kalamvrezos, Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations, on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists

July 17


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you on behalf of the twenty-one Member States of the Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists that Greece is honoured to co-chair together with Lithuania and France.

The Group of Friends is delighted to co-host this event with UNESCO, in collaboration with the longstanding defenders of the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists: the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), ARTICLE 19, and the IFEX network. We value our long-standing cooperation and support the exceptional work carried out by these international non-governmental organizations in raising awareness and developing practical solutions to the challenges faced by journalists.

In 2012, when the United Nations Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board as an inter-agency framework for coordinating, developing and improving existing responses to threats against journalists, it was a very timely step during dire times for the media.

We have to note with regret that the seven years that have passed since the endorsement of the UN Plan of Action have been some of the most difficult for journalists and media workers. Journalists continue to find themselves in grave danger and are subject to killings, kidnapping, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture, as shown, for example, by UNESCO’s Global Report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development. Women are often particularly subjected. The types of perpetrators differ and are broadening, all the while impunity rates hover near an astounding ninety percent, according to the UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity.

However, the grim statistics cannot hide the primary achievement of the Plan of Action, namely the increased recognition of a need to form robust national protection mechanisms that protect journalists. I would like to recognize those States (several of them are members of the Group of Friends) that are genuinely committed to freedom of expression and the protection of journalists and media workers, including in times of transition. Their commitment contributes to the development of open societies.

The Plan has also provided a common basis for states and civil society on the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity. The Group of Friends has made concerted efforts to share national experiences, engage the media, identify good practices, increase coordination, and - most importantly - to reaffirm the significance of pluralistic, independent and trustworthy media as a guardian and monitor of democracy and the rule of law.

The creation of the Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists in 2016 was primarily driven by the same urgency shared by its members, that is, to promote a better implementation of existing international obligations and commitments related to the protection of journalists. Today, more than ever, the Group remains dedicated to the full and voluntary implementation of the resolutions on the protection of journalists, as well as to the UN Plan of Action. In this respect, we are very grateful for the leadership of the Secretary-General and for activation of the relevant Focal Points Network within the UN system. We also appreciate UNESCO’s important work on the ground through capacity building (in particular, of the judiciary) that contributes to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action.

The Member States of the Group of Friends remain firm in their commitment to press freedom and to the protection of journalists in implementing national initiatives and sharing good practices that range from the strengthening of national legal frameworks to multiple activities ensuring safety of journalists and media workers.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an important framework through which advancement in the area of the safety of journalists can be monitored, measured and assessed.

Protection of journalists and media workers is a key component in all efforts by States and other stakeholders to reach Target 16.10 that aims to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. Monitoring and reporting conducted under the quantitative Indicator 16.10.1 will significantly complement existing methodology and data-collection methods developed by the OHCHR, UNESCO and ILO for human rights monitoring and analysis of the full range of violations of human rights of journalists. They will also help find the most effective ways to address these violations and abuses.

The Group of Friends continues to work closely with the UN entities, representatives of the media organizations and NGO platforms, including a number of civil society actors that monitor freedom of expression and the protection of journalists through a variety of tools, notably: the Committee to Protect Journalists and its annual Global Impunity Index; and Reporters Without Borders and their annual World Press Freedom Index. The Group of Friends calls on all relevant stakeholders to contribute to the gathering, collecting and provision of data on attacks against journalists in line with the 2030 Agenda and its indicator 16.10.1.

We would like to extend our gratitude and strong support to all the international and regional organizations, NGOs and the members of civil society that are committed to protecting journalists and their rights and freedoms. Defense of journalists is fundamentally important, not only as a prerequisite for societal advancement, debate and accountability, but also as an essential component of a free and open society.

We welcome the distinguished panelists and are looking forward to their contributions to this thought-provoking and timely panel discussion. Thank you.


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