UN rights council urges end to media attacks
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Wednesday (Manila time) adopted a resolution seeking to protect journalists around the world, amid a growing hostile environment where leaders have used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to curtail civil and political liberties.
The eight-page resolution, which was sponsored and adopted by over 70 countries, including the Philippines, outlined a staggering list of 21 recommendations for all states that underscored the relationship between human rights and press freedom.
It is also the first UN resolution since the death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khasoggi, whose murder inside a Turkish embassy allegedly in the hands of Saudi Arabian henchmen sent shockwaves across the world.
The resolution stressed that the freedoms of expression and the press are rights enshrined in international covenants, and expressed “deep concern” about “all attempts to silence journalists and media workers,” from the broad misuse of legislation to target critical reporters to blatant human rights abuses like murder, torture, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests and detention.
Toll on media workers
It also recognized the physical, mental and emotional toll of COVID-19 on media workers around the world, and of the concerning 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.
Among others, the resolution seeks all countries to align their national laws and policies fully in compliance with their commitments under international human rights law such that they do not limit the ability and safety of all media workers.
Another crucial recommendation is to consider, whenever possible, “devising appropriate mechanisms to provide financial support for the media, including local journalism and investigative reporting,” in light of the economic impact wrought by the pandemic.
Likewise, it sought the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) to present to the UNHRC at its 48th session a report “on the impact and repercussions of measures taken by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The said report, the resolution said, “must integrate a gender perspective, and to identify trends and collect good practices, in particular on how the OHCHR can assist to the development of national approaches to protect journalists.”
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