The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Resolution on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity at its 68th Session on 18 December 2013. This landmark Resolution “condemns unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations”. It is the first time the UNGA has adopted a resolution directly addressing the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

The Resolution also proclaimed 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.  The date coincides with the day when French journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were killed by militants in Mali this year. It also falls within the three week period each year that media NGOs worldwide have been campaigning against impunity.

“I welcome the adoption of this Resolution by the General Assembly and its recognition of UNESCO’s leadership in the promoting safety of journalists and of fighting impunity” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO.

The Resolution calls on the UN secretary general to report at its next session in 2014 on the progress being made by the UN system in regard to implementing the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

Furthermore, it invites UNESCO to be the overall coordinator of the implementation of UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, operating with focal points from Member States as well as relevant UN agencies, organizations, funds and programmes to exchange relevant information.

Civil society has welcomed the adoption of the resolution. Reporters Without Borders hailed the decision calling it “a new step in the right direction”. IFEX which has been leading an annual global campaign globally against impunity particularly welcomed the proclamation of 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity.

The Resolution, co-sponsored by Greece, Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, France, Tunisia and 72 other countries, calls upon States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference, including:

  • legislative measures;
  • awareness-raising in the judiciary and among law enforcement officers and military personnel, as well as among journalists and in civil society, regarding international human rights and humanitarian law obligations and commitments relating to the safety of journalists;
  • the monitoring and reporting of attacks against journalists;
  • publicly condemning attacks; and
  • dedicating the resources necessary to investigate and prosecute such attacks

With more than 600 journalists killed in the last ten years, many more who suffered other non-fatal attacks and extremely low rate of conviction of the perpetrators of these crimes, the Resolution comes at a crucial juncture in the work on promotion of safety of journalists, media workers, and social media producers who generate public interest journalism.

The Resolution marks continuing commitment by the UN and UNESCO to improve the safety of journalists and combat impunity. In 2010, UNESCO’s IPDC recognized the need to unite all stakeholders in the quest to protect journalists. The IPDC envisaged a mechanism that would harness the collective strength of the UN system, Member States, international and national civil society, academia, and the media itself to address the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

The resulting UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was adopted at a conference in September 2011, and then endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board in April 2012.

In 2006, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1738 which condemns the attacks of journalists working in conflict situations.