Saturday, May 03, 2014

Stop killing Journalists. Powerful Point but poor messaging

Everyday should be world press freedom day, not just May 3rd. Interesting that a TV organisation like Al Jazeera would make a campaign based around a clock-radio. And I think it's time to talk about media freedom of expression, because it encompasses so much more than the printed press.

Don't get me wrong, the dangers of investigative reporting in many countries is vastly misunderstood by the general public. But that is increasingly because our vocabulary is changing. I don't those campaigning for better media freedom have updated their messaing.

But talking with people outside the industry, the reaction is often quite surprising. "1054 deaths globally in 22 years?  Compared to military and civilian deaths in conflict zones, that sounds like peanuts. This risk comes with the profession."

Of course this number doesn't include those people who assist journalists get the story, or the number of journalists in prison as a result of just doing their job. Attacks against journalists and other media actors constitute particularly serious violations of human rights because they target not only individuals, but deprive others of their right to receive information. Restricting public debate harms the very heart of pluralist democracy

Whilst the number on the left hand side of the "clock radio" public service message is clear enough, I'm not sure people can either read or understand the significance of the numbers on the radio dial. For me, the cause is very important. But they need to make a different kind of campaign that resonates with the public not just other journalists. The campaigns by organisations like RSF seem much more effective.

The weakest campaign, as usual, comes from UNESCO. The UN DG just delivers statements with a vague call to governments of the world. Just over 500 views on YouTube speaks volumes - this format is a very ineffective way of sharing an idea. Compare the statement from UNESCO with the the ten points mentioned in a declaration by the Council of Europe last Wednesday. I note that the Russian Federation said that it didn't feel the rights should be extended to other media, only professional journalists. Now there's a point I missed on RT!

1. Journalists and other media actors in Europe are increasingly being harassed, intimidated, deprived of their liberty, physically attacked and even killed because of their investigative work, opinions or reporting. These abuses and crimes are often met with insufficient efforts by relevant State authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice, which leads to a culture of impunity.

2. This alarming situation is not exclusively limited to professional journalists and other traditional media actors. As many intergovernmental bodies have recognised, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its General Comment No. 34,2 the scope of media actors has enlarged as a result of new forms of media in the digital age.3 Those at risk also include others who contribute to inform the public debate and persons performing journalistic activity or public watchdog functions.
3. The right to freedom of expression, to receive and impart information, ideas and opinions without interference is guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, the “Convention”); it constitutes one of the fundamental principles upon which a democratic society is based. The public watchdog functions of the media are crucial for upholding these rights and for the protection of all other human rights. Misuse of power, corruption, discrimination, criminal activity or human rights violations have come to light as a direct result of the work of investigative journalists and other media actors. Making the facts known to the public is essential for redressing such situations and holding to account those responsible.
4. Journalists and others who perform public watchdog functions through the media are often in a vulnerable position vis-à-vis the public authorities or powerful interests groups because of their role in informing the public and provoking debate on issues of public interest. Obstacles created in order to hinder access to information of public interest may not only discourage journalists and other media actors from fulfilling their public watchdog role,4 but may also have negative effects on their safety and security.
5. Attacks against journalists and other media actors constitute particularly serious violations of human rights because they target not only individuals, but deprive others of their right to receive information, thus restricting public debate, which is at the very heart of pluralist democracy.
6. The European Court of Human Rights has held that the role played by journalists in a democratic society confers upon them certain increased protections under Article 10 of the Convention. The exercise of media freedom, including in relation to matters of serious public concern, also involves duties and responsibilities. The safeguard afforded by Article 10 to journalists in relation to reporting on issues of general interest is subject to the proviso that they are acting in good faith in order to provide accurate and reliable information in accordance with the ethics of journalism.
7. The European Court of Human Rights has established that States are required to create a favourable environment for participation in public debate by all persons, enabling them to express their opinions and ideas without fear.6 To do this, States must not only refrain from interference with individuals’ freedom of expression, but are also under a positive obligation to protect their right to freedom of expression against the threat of attack, including from private individuals, by putting in place an effective system of protection.
8. Eradicating impunity is a crucial obligation upon States, as a matter of justice for the victims, as a deterrent with respect to future human rights violations and in order to uphold the rule of law and public trust in the justice system.7 All attacks on journalists and other media actors should be vigorously investigated in a timely fashion and the perpetrators prosecuted. The effective investigation of such attacks requires that any possible link to journalistic activities be duly taken into account in a transparent manner.
9. A favourable environment for public debate requires States to refrain from judicial intimidation by restricting the right of individuals to disclose information of public interest through arbitrary or disproportionate application of the law, in particular the criminal law provisions relating to defamation, national security or terrorism. The arbitrary use of laws creates a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to impart information and ideas, and leads to self-censorship. Furthermore, prompt and free access to information as the general rule and strong protection of journalists’ sources are essential for the proper exercise of journalism, in particular in respect of investigative journalism.
10. Surveillance of journalists and other media actors, and the tracking of their online activities, can endanger the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression if carried out without the necessary safeguards and can even threaten the safety of the persons concerned. It can also undermine the protection of journalists’ sources.

So what don't I understand? And what would be a better way of getting the message out?

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