PEC press release
Geneva, October 6, 2020 (PEC) The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) welcomes the adoption today by consensus by the Human Rights Council of a new resolution on the safety of journalists, in particular, reporting on the pandemic. The PEC urges all States to implement, respect, and enforce all its articles. The PEC welcomes the decision to “request the High Commissioner to present to the Human Rights Council at its forty-eighth session a report on the impact and repercussions of measures taken by Governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the safety and work of journalists and media workers, integrating a gender perspective, and to identify trends and collect good practices, in particular on how the Office of the High Commissioner, within its mandate and working with other relevant United Nations entities, can assist, when requested, in the development of national approaches to protect journalists”.
“An independent study of the consequences of the pandemic for the work of journalists is very welcome. The coronavirus pandemic is causing not only global health and economic crises but also a crisis for democracy, human rights, and press freedom. Transparency and accountability are essential. Journalists working in the field are on the front line in the fight against the COVID-19”, stressed PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen.
Journalists pay a high price for the pandemic. According to research by the PEC, the virus caused the death of more than 400 media workers from 49 countries since March, severely hampering the work of many journalists, and caused the closure of several media for health, political and economic reasons. Reporting on the pandemicIn the resolution adopted today, the members of the Council express their deep concern “that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis has significant implications for the work, health and safety of journalists and media workers, and in this regard concerned about the consequences of the economic impact of the pandemic, which increases the vulnerability of journalists and weakens media sustainability, independence and pluralism and worsens the risks of misinformation and disinformation spreading by limiting access to a wide range of reliable information and opinions”. The PEC shares the concern of the Human Rights Council which declares itself “alarmed at threats against, and arrests and involuntary disappearances, as well as disproportionate and undue restrictions on access to information or censorship, freedom of movement or accreditation, of journalists and media workers linked to their reporting on the pandemic”. The resolution also calls for governments “to cooperate with journalists, the media and civil society organizations to assess the damage that the COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on the provision of vital information to the public and the sustainability of media environments, and to consider, wherever possible, devising appropriate mechanisms to provide financial support to the media, including local journalism and investigative reporting, and to ensure that support is given without compromising editorial independence”.
Fight against impunity
The resolution reiterates important recommendations made in previous years by the UN. It thus condemns all attacks against media workers, calls for the release of all journalists arbitrarily detained, and “to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction, to bring perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes to justice, and to ensure that victims and their families have access to appropriate restitution, compensation and assistance”. Despite the adoption of several resolutions in recent years by the UN, justice is very slow and impunity persists in far too many cases, regrets the PEC. An international mechanism remains essential in order to identify and prosecute those behind these crimes. In this regard, the UN resolutions do not go far enough. The PEC thanks the main sponsors of the resolution: Austria, Brazil, France, Greece, Morocco, Qatar, and Tunisia. A total of more than 70 countries sponsored the text. More info, list of victims and text of the resolution on www.pressemblem.ch