Safety of Journalists > Blog > Austria Leads Group of Countries Backing Report on Safety of Journalists at the UN Human Rights Council

Austria Leads Group of Countries Backing Report on Safety of Journalists at the UN Human Rights Council

16 September 2013

The report by the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights on good practices in the protection of journalists was presented at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. It was presented as part of thematic reports, including the reports on issues ranging from the abolition of death penalty, right to development and of senior persons. As such, the safety of journalist was vying for space in comments from council members and observer states but many managed to refer to it, endorsing its conclusions and recommendations.

Lithuania on behalf of the European Union, Ireland and Macedonia were among countries which strongly supported the report. But, perhaps the most impressive contribution of all was the statement of Austria which struck a tone of caution and set a challenge to all states.

Austria delivered a statement on behalf of 72 countries, all in support of the report, and called for drastic action at the states’ highest intervention to signal their commitment to end violence against media.
The Austrian Ambassador later told the IFJ that there were more states associated to the statement than those who had supported the adoption of the Council’s resolution last September. This must have required frenetic negotiations among all these delegations and success would have warranted a sense of achievement.

He was anything but triumphant, though, and made it clear that the safety crisis in media should spur governments into action. He noted that over 50 journalists and media have lost their lives since the start of the year.
He urged states to take a clear position at the highest level of governments about the important role of journalists and called for a continuing engagement of the Council, including organising an event to debate the report in detail.
The IFJ agrees with this approach. This report may not be the make or break deal in the fight against impunity, but it should not be left to gather dust on the shelves. Rather, the UN should use it as backstop measure to ensure states deliver on their pledge of support.