UNESCO continues fight for freedom of expression

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Prof. Berger and Mr. Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi (in red t-shirt) Chief, Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section at UNESCO
IMG 2817

Reason Razao in Windhoek Namibia

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has committed to building bridges that will add to the existing efforts to guarantee the freedom of expression and safety of journalists in discharging their duties by engaging different governments and state structures across the world.

Speaking at this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Windhoek, Namibia, UNESCO chief in Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety section Guilherme Canele de Souza Godoi said the agency will continue to seek better working conditions for journalists.

The celebrations are being held under the theme; “Information as a public good”.

Canela said despite UNESCO’s limited influence on media policy making in different countries, the Section of Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety will continue to advocate and create awareness of the need to address the incarceration and injustices perpetrated against reporters.

“With our limited capacity what we can do is to call attention for these kinds of things, we talk to the different players either if they are governments or other important people inside the state structure,” Canela said.

UNESCO currently runs a programme that has to date trained over 18 000 legal practitioners to abide and uphold human rights standards when dealing with cases involving journalists.

“We have a huge programme training judges and prosecutors to respect rule of law so that when journalists are persecuted and are not prosecuted in line with international freedom of expression standards, we have judges saying they will not take cases because they would have been against the stipulated human rights standards.”

According to Canela, progress was evident towards handling cases dealing with journalists as some reporters tried in authoritarian countries were freed under judges and prosecutors who underwent the training.

“It is a drop in an ocean but we are making strides in addressing the environment in which journalists operate in and with some instances were journalist being spared from the suppression,” Canela said.

The UN is also running a Plan of Action for the safety of journalist and issues of impunity which aims to create a free and safe environment for reporters and media workers, both in conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to strengthening peace, democracy and development worldwide.

Its measures include, among other undertakings, the establishment of a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to the safety of journalists as well as assisting countries to develop legislation and mechanisms favourable to freedom of expression and information and supporting their efforts to implement existing international rules and principles.

According to the Reporters without Borders Freedom Barometer Index, there was a 40 percent increase in reported breaches since 2019 cases engaging journalistic safety.

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