Senegal: UN urged to appoint Special Representative for safety of journalists

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – Some 35 freedom of expression groups have urged United Nations (UN) General Assembly to appoint a Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the safety of journalists as soon as possible.

The groups made the call in a letter sent to the UN and copy of which was obtained by PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Monday.

According to the groups, which include Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters sans frontieres (RSF), 787 journalists and media personnel were killed while exercising their profession over the last 10 years, including 67 in 2015 alone.

''Through them, the right to information of hundreds of millions of citizens has been sacrificed. The main problems of the world, from environmental issues to extremist violence, cannot be processed without the work of journalists worthy of the name,'' the letter noted.

It also pointed out that, despite various resolutions adopted in the past decade, including by the Security Council and the General Assembly, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his last annual report on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity (published on 8 August 2015) did not hesitate to speak of ''failure to reduce the frequency and scale of targeted violence that journalists face and the near absolute impunity for such crimes.''

''These strong resolutions could be no more than empty words without a concrete mechanism to assure the compliance of member states with their obligations,'' the letter argued.

''Only a Special Representative working closely with the UN Secretary General will have the political weight, the capacity to act quickly, and the legitimacy to coordinate with all UN bodies to implement change.''

The rights groups stressed that giving the Special Representative a central and permanent position under the UN Secretary General's aegis would significantly empower the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and all UN efforts lead by UNESCO, the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

That position would also reinforce the regional actions of the Council of Europe or the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Organization of American States).

''Despite the progress that has already been made, more needs to be done. We count on you to appoint a Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the safety of journalists as soon as possible.  Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration,'' the letter concluded.

-0- PANA MLJ/AR 2May2016

02 may 2016 16:37:45

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