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RSF calls for a special representative to the UN for the safety of journalists

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On the occasion of the 30th World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Monday for the creation of a post of Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for the Safety of Journalists. According to the organization’s latest ranking, the freedom to inform is hampered in nearly three-quarters of the countries of the world. Details from Pauline Adès-Mevel, spokesperson for RSF.

They were called David Beriain and Roberto Fraile. At the end of April, these two Spanish reporters, accustomed to war grounds, were executed in Burkina Faso while they were preparing a documentary on poaching. Their names have been added to the long list of journalists killed in the exercise of their profession. According to the Unesco Observatory of Murdered Journalists, 1,452 reporters have died in the name of the public’s right to information since 1993.

For this World Press Freedom Day, Monday, May 3, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for the creation of a post of UN Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists, while threats against them are growing. multiply.

The last few years have been marked by an increase in imprisonments, kidnappings and physical violence, in a context of generalized rhetoric hostile to the media.

According to RSF’s latest press freedom ranking, journalism is severely hampered or restricted in no less than 132 countries, or nearly three-quarters of the countries surveyed.


Threats to their safety, obstacles to the freedom to inform, spread of “fake news” … What are the challenges facing media professionals in this period marked by health restrictions linked to the Covid-19 epidemic ? Some answers with Pauline Adès-Mevel, spokesperson for RSF.

France 24 : On the occasion of this World Press Freedom Day, RSF is calling for the creation of a post of UN Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists. What would be his role ?

This is a request that RSF has been making for several years. All over the world, on all continents, even in Europe where there have been several assassinations in recent years, it is essential to ensure the safety of journalists. A representative at the UN would allow us to have a point of reference in the event of an emergency, and an interlocutor able to alert the whole world to this issue.

Discussions are ongoing, but creating this kind of position is a long process. For our part, we provide data to convince the UN: 1,059 journalists murdered in ten years, with an impunity rate approaching 90%, hatred and threats against journalists who are thriving … means for this post of special representative to emerge.

The fight against impunity involves in particular international bodies and public condemnations of these crimes, because safeguarding the safety of journalists is an imperative need to guarantee the public access to free, independent, pluralist and reliable information. This applies in times of peace as in times of war, but also in times of pandemic.

Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic could have served as a pretext for States to muzzle the press, as in Madagascar last week, where nine TV and radio programs were suspended, on the pretext that they were “likely to disturb the public. ‘public order and security’…

Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed authoritarian states and others to block information. Of the 180 countries we study, three-quarters have severely or less severely hampered the freedom to inform. These blockages have unfolded in two main ways: obstacles to news coverage linked to health restrictions, and disinformation, which has been extremely damaging. There are still countries in the world that deny the existence of a virus.

In Africa, we have seen many journalists arrested, freedom-killing laws passed … The Covid-19 has really been a mirror of the immense difficulties faced by journalists, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where half of the countries appear in the red or black area of ​​our classification.

With regard to Madagascar, the authorities are trying to block information by suppressing television and radio broadcasts accused of “harming national unity”. We strongly denounced this type of measure and we ask the government to allow journalists to work freely.

RSF recently published its press freedom ranking. What are the main lessons of this 2021 edition ? Are there any notable developments ?

This ranking already shows a constant: that of the domination of the Nordic countries, with, as every year, Norway, Finland and Sweden in the lead.

Another important fact: the white area, which indicates a very satisfactory journalism practice situation, is getting thinner and thinner. Germany is no longer one of them. Today, only 7% of the countries studied are in a good situation with regard to press freedom. But there are also positive developments, such as Burundi which has gained 13 places in our ranking. One way for us to encourage them on this path towards a better freedom to inform.

Finally, France is only 34e. It’s a bad score, when we see that Switzerland is 10e or Belgium 11e. In France, the coverage of demonstrations has become a very complicated exercise for reporters targeted by arbitrary arrests or victims of police violence.

We also see that investigative journalists are no longer immune to pressure, with summons of journalists by the intelligence services in 2019 then by the IGPN, the police, in 2020, and a risk of surrender. in question of the secrecy of sources. The situation is therefore far from ideal. France must move up the rankings and regain a rank comparable to that of other democracies.

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