Hundred press freedom advocates from more than forty countries attend the conference
Five working papers presented and four workshops were held
Contributions of Director General DCMF Jan Keulen &
Unesco representatives Mr Fackson Banda highly appreciated,
DCMF hosts a dinner reception in Diplomatic Club.
President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar highlights press freedom situation in Pakistan
Doha: National Committee for Human Rights of Qatar organized two days long conference in Ritz-Colton Hotel, Doha which was attended by of 100 international organizations in addition to representatives from Journalist Protection organizations; and others representing Human Rights Organizations and a number of Media Organs and TV Satellite Stations hailing from more than 40 countries. Two delegates from Pakistan President Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) and Central General Secretary Pakistan Federal Union of journalists (PFUJ) AminYousaf also attended this moot and participated in wonderful rounds of discussions.
With the spiraling conflicts in many countries including the Arab Spring, the ‘International Conference on the Protection of Journalists in Dangerous Situations’ opened at the Ritz Carlton, Doha, under the patronage of H.E. the prime minister and foreign minister, SH Hamad Ben Jassem Ben Jabor Al-Thani with a call for concrete mechanisms to ensure safety of media workers in line of duty.
The opening session heard speeches from their excellences, Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, the minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Dr. Ali Bin Smaikh Al-Marry, NHRC Chairman, SH Ahmad Bin Jassem Al-Thani, the General Director the Jazeera Satellite Station and Mr. Blaise Lempen, the Press Emblem Campaign Secretary General. The opening session opened with a Jazeera produced documentary on journalists at work in dangerous situations which was well received by the audience representing media and human rights organizations from across the globe.
Mr. Al-Kawari began with conveying the greetings and best wishes of the H.E. the sponsor of the conference, SH Hamad Ben Jassem Ben Jabor Al-Thani, pointing out that the Choice of Doha for a venue of the conference was no coincidence, rather, a crowing by the organizers, of the city as an international capital of many world events-Thanks to the wise leadership of HH the Emir SH Hamad Ben Khalifa Al-Thani-a leadership, H.E. added that aims at promoting The revival of noble human values and the right of peoples to freedom justice, equality and the culture of dialogue and tolerance. The conference, H.E. stressed comes in the framework of these objectives. H.E. lauded the role of NHRC for organizing the event and expressed the hope that the conference will form a valuable addition in the framework of efforts underway to draft an international agreement for the protection of journalists working in dangerous situations.
For his part, Dr Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, pointed out that. “The protection of journalists, especially those working in conflict areas has become an urgent issue in the light of escalation of political, economic and social conditions in many countries in the world, including themergence of political changes in the Arab world which resulted in the Arab Spring which left in 2011 more than 20 journalists who have their blood shed in their mission to convey the truth.” Al Marri urged the participants to develop a plan for an international campaign to support the implementation of conference outcomes to prevent crimes against journalists and media professionals.
Existing laws provide journalists enough protection as under the international humanitarian law (IHL), journalists working in conflicts enjoy the protection granted to civilians, said Dorothea Krimitsas, spokeswoman of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“The most serious deficiency is not a lack of rules but a failure to implement the rules and to systematically investigate, prosecute and punish violators,” said Krimitsas, adding any new initiative to enhance the protection of journalists should focus on prevention and on the implementation of existing IHL.
But the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) says current laws are not enough to protect journalists in areas of conflict and violent unrest.
“This legal protection has not prevented the killing of an average of two journalists every week over the past five years – nearly 550 in five years,” said Blasie Lempen, Secretary General of the PEC.
According to International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) 106 journalists were killed last year and that only one in eight of their killers were prosecuted.
“In two-third of the cases the killers were not identified at all and probably will never be. This means that it is almost virtually risk-free to kill a journalist – murder has become the easiest, perhaps the cheapest and most effective way of silencing troublesome journalists,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.
The absence of effective enforcement mechanisms and legislation dealing specifically with protection of journalists in dangerous areas accounts for the futility of existing laws, said Lempen.
In this regard, the PEC has drafted a convention whose provisions concern obligations in training, access and identification, complaints, investigations, compensation and reparation, legal action against and conviction of those responsible and follow-up. Its purpose is to create a uniform emblem internationally recognized that journalists could use as situation requires, he added.
The opening also saw the launch of an award under the name of Ali Hassan Al Jabir, a Qatari photojournalist working for Aljazeera who died in Libya.
A total five working papers were also presented in second session, Mr Fackson Banda Programme Specialist, Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO read his paper entitled “Building International Consensus on the Safety of Journalists: an Inter agency Perspective”
He told the audience that the safe practice of journalism is at the very core of UNESCO’s work as the only UN agency with a specific mandate to promote freedom of expression in keeping with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He further told that, since 2000, more than 500 journalists and media workers have been killed worldwide, and many more wounded or injured while carrying out their professional responsibilities. Fackson Banda highlighted the UNESCO flagship activities in the area including the World Press Freedom Day celebration. He stated that, over the years, UNESCO has been supporting safety training and workshops for journalists and media workers around the world, creating awareness and advocacy campaigns to urge Member States to end impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers. In 2008, UNESCO co-authored a UN Charter for the Safety of Journalists Working in War Zones or Dangerous Areas, which includes a commitment by the media, public authorities and journalists to systematically seek ways to reduce the risks involved, he added.
UNESCO expert revealed the draft Plan of Action set by a UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunityheld in September 2011 under the instructions of Director General UNESCO. This plan of action lists five key conclusions and recommendations namely, Strengthening UN Mechanisms, Cooperating with Member States, Partnering with other organizations and institutions, Raising awareness and Fostering safety initiatives.,he concluded.
DOHA CENTRE FOR MEDIA FREEDOM
Mr Jan Keulen,General Director of Doha Center for Media Freedom who is matchless media expert presented “A work paper on ability building in the area of journalists’ safety standards“. He informed the participants that the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) is a non profit organisation that aims to promote freedom of expression, access to information and journalism quality in Qatar, the Middle East and the World at large. He stated that DCMF believes that press freedom and quality journalism are interrelated and together are vital for empowering citizens to participate in social and political life. Well functioning media are crucial for creating well-informed and responsible citizens, health societies and sustainable economies, he added.Mr Keulen further informed about his Centre’s activities which include direct assistance to journalists; training and education of media workers; research and outreach activities, media literacy program and a website with the latest news and features on press freedom issues around the world. Highlighting the DCMF’s capacity building program. General Director said that it promotes press freedom through mid-career journalism training and through the promotion of media and information literacy. Its training programmes focuses on legal awareness and protection of journalists; access to information; international standards of professional quality and new media skills. DCMF has a branch in Gaza, and it sees the safety and protection of journalists as an essential pre-condition to a well functioning media and has adopted safety as one of the central themes of its capacity development programmes,he maintained.
Mr. Jan Keulen also highlighted safety situation in the Middle East, changing nature of safety & security risks, capacity building efforts of international organizations and increased attention for international standards of journalism safety. He urged the media organizations to provide the framework in which safety policies and mechanisms will come to effect. He pointed out that capacity building should also include staff groups or employees, other than reporters, who play their role in the implementation of safety promotion policies,e.g.line managers, health & safety coordinators; residential staff charged with maintaining communication with colleagues on assignment.
FOUR WORKSHOPS were also organized after lunch and participants expressed their views. President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar joined the workshop entitled “Capacity building on safety standards for journalists“.Mr Petrus Schothort Coordinator Training Programme Doha Centre For Media Freedom was the moderator. General Director DCMF Mr Jan Keulen,Ms Elisabetta Plebani Programme Coordinator Free Press Unlimited, Ms Hannah Storm Deputy Director & Project ManagerInternational News Safety Institute(INSI)London,UK,Mr Fackson Banda Programme Specialist,UNESCO, Shujaat Ali Political Cartoonist Aljazeera Network and other twenty delegates attended it.Partcipants were divided into four groups after a lengthy discussion on safety issues. They unanimously drafted their recommendations which were read by NHRC Chairman next day.
General Director of Doha Centre for Media Freedom Mr Jan Keulen hosted a dinner reception at Diplomatic Club on Saturday,21st January at 7 PM.More than ten delegates were removed from lobby of Ritz Carlton Hotel to Diplomatic Club by DCMF staff in their vehicles..The aim of the dinner reception was to renew the acquaintance with the satff of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom and discuss further cooperation.Ms Astrid Schipper Incharge Libya Project DCMF,Mr Petrus Schothorst Coordinator Training Programme DCMF, Mr Ayman Bardawil Programs Manager DCMF ,Ms Anealla Safdar Web Editor DCMF and other officials of DCMF were present there who excanged views with Ms Hannah Storm Deputy Director & Project Manager International News Safety Institute(INSI),Ms Elisabetta Plebani Programme Coordinator Free Press Unlimited and other press freedom advocates.President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar was the only Pakistani delegate who attended this dinner reception.He discussed Pakistani journalists safety issues with Mr Jan Keulen,Ms Astrid Schipper,Mr Ayman Bardawil Ms Anealla Safdar and others.Ms Anealla is British born Pakistani working as web editor of DCMF.Earlier she remained associated with Gulf News.All the participants enjoyed the dinner ceremony and thanked Mr Jan Keulen for providing an opportunity to interact with him and his colleagues
Recommendations of the International Conference to Protect Journalists in dangerous situations
We, representatives of media, human rights and freedom of expression groups and international, regional and national organizations of journalists meeting at the International Conference to protect Journalists held in Doha, Qatar on 22-23 January 2012, organized by the Qatari National Committee for Human Rights (QNCHR)
Recalling all recommendations, covenants, declarations and resolutions
promulgated or endorsed by international organizations such as the UN and
the Geneva Conventions
Noting all the global initiatives put forth by international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with the protection of journalists
Recognizing the importance of media in increasing awareness of the
violations of international humanitarian law and human rights
Believing that media has a responsibility to help put an end to impunity
by systematically publicizing crimes against journalists, investigating when necessary all violations and ensuring that perpetrators as well as failure of government to act are exposed
Calling on all organizations representing journalists and NGOs concerned
with the safety of journalists to work together in the broadest campaign to ensure great safety of journalists and bring an end to impunity
Following the review of the conference of the current status of the media
in dangerous situations and referring to protective measures provided by
international law, discussing the idea of a draft convention for the protection of journalists in conflict zones and other dangerous situations
– that although the United Nations and its agencies have a wide range of tools and instruments which can address the issue of safety, scores of
journalists and media workers continue to be killed every year while carrying out their professional responsibilities. Many of such abuses are not investigated and remain unpunished.
– that renewed and urgent action is necessary to press for robust implementation to the existing mechanisms and procedures by increasing the
effectiveness of monitoring and enforcement of the current instruments
This Conference therefore recommends:
– To the United Nations and its agencies
1. Implement forthwith their latest plan of action agreed at their Paris Autumn conference and enhance their working with specialized
non-governmental organizations dedicated to the safety of journalists and
2. Develop new tools to bind all States to acknowledge and accept a standing obligation to provide particular safeguards and protection for journalists beyond the provisions of UN Security Council resolution reminding States of their obligations to give journalists protection as civilians in situations of conflict
3. Adopt ambitious reforms to its mechanisms and procedures such as
through regional security organizations, expanding the mandates of Special
Rapporteurs and concerned UN bodies, organizing emergency alerts and
missions, considering intrusive inspections and mandatory sanctions –
developing or renewing existing systems, developing further monitoring and
peer review processes and work towards an ultimate goal setting up an
international treaty so that countries can collectively adopt a set of radical new measures to afford credible protection to journalists
4. Expand the current legal provisions beyond the obligation to protect journalists against attacks on thier life, and include forced disappearances and kidnapping (by state or private actors), arbitrary arrest, intimidation, deportation/refusal of entry, confiscation/damage to property and new forms of violence experienced by journalists during the 2011 Arab Spring, and further develop Human Rights Council resolutions S-2/1 and S-9/1 concerning the attacks on media installations and allowing access as well as safe media corridors in conflict zones
5. Asking the Human Rights Council to appoint a special rapporteur on
the protection of journalists, requesting the High Commissionner for Human
Rights (HCHR) to create a unit to follow up media cases.
– To governments
1. Respect the letter and spirit of all international instruments they signed up to, of the binding and non-binding resolutions, covenants and declarations of the United Nations
2. Include an assessment of other country’s record when granting aid and other development assistance. International development institutions,
surch as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, should also
scrutinize a country’s record on violence journalists when assessing the
granting of aid and other assistance
3. Strengthen national laws including criminal laws and overhaul justice system to end impunity and to provide judicial and legislative assistance to prevent serious violations of international humanitarian laws including the targeting of journalists
4. Agree that families of killed journalists have a right to compensation directly or through media institutions and establish a solidarity fund for the victims.
– To news organizations
1. Acknowledge their duty of care for all their journalists, in particular news gatherers, staff or freelance and their responsibility to provide hostile environment safety training and equipment whether at time of conflict or not
2. Arrange trauma counseling through specialized organizations such as
the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
3. Negotiate at all time with journalists’ representatives all issues of safety in news coverage, including safety protocols, medical care, life insurance, equality to provide those social guarantees to all, including freelancers
4. Increase awareness and knowledge of legal international agreements
and conventions as well as regional ones
5. Include awareness of all aspects of the region under coverage in
6. Include special training for women in view of the attacks such as
sexual harassment and the spate of other violent attacks directly targeted
– To Journalists
1. Develop a culture to being responsible for their own safety and
seek out training before traveling to conflict zones
2. Develop a culture of solidarity, in particular a duty of care
towards each other
3. Be ready at all time to help record any incidents of attacks to provide evidence to cases of violence
4. Develop an understanding of how military works and be ready how to
FOLLOW-UP TO THESE RECOMMENDATIONS
As a first step, the participants to the Doha conference agree to:
1. Place the issue of the safety and protection of journalists whenever possible on the agenda of international and regional institutions and conferences
2. Work towards a new meeting to be attend by all stakeholders including governments to further discuss and develop the current recommendations after one year
3. Agree to disseminate the current recommendations and to organize
press conferences to publicize them
4. Call upon the Qatarai NCHR to create a working group involving all
stakeholders to follow up the adopted recommendations.
Participants agree to transmit these recommendations to the President of
the General Assembly for adoption by the General Assembly. This would be
done by a presentation made by a delegation led by the NCHR and comprising Ionternational Federation of Journalists, The Press Emblem Campaign, Federacion de periodistas de America Latina y Caribe, Federation of African Journalists, Federation of the Arab Journalists, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Participants recommend that all working papers and reports of workshops
are considered as official documents of the Doha international conference.
Finally, participants express their appreciation and thanks to the NCHR
for its efforts to organize the Doha conference and call upon it to continue its work with other concerned parties to implement the adopted recommendations.