Speech/statement | Date: 02/11/2017 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Former State Secretary Tone Skogen (Oslo and Akershus University College, 2 November 2017)
State Secretary Tone Skogen's speech at a Conference on the safety and protection of journalists and the fight against impunity at the Oslo and Akershus University College on 2 November 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- I am honoured to have been invited to this important conference on the safety and protection of journalists and the fight against impunity.
- Journalists are key agents of democracy and freedom. They give us vital information. They act as watchdogs and help to ensure transparency and accountability in public affairs.
- Regrettably, there is a shrinking space for freedom of expression, independent media and civil society in many countries. Europe is no exception. Some of you present here today have experienced this first hand. I commend your courage. Your willingness to continue working inspires us and urges us to keep up – and indeed step up – our efforts for human rights.
- Promoting freedom of expression and independent media is an urgent and long-term priority for the Norwegian Government. This is a key issue in our foreign and human rights policies. We are contributing at all levels – multilateral, regional and bilateral – to efforts to improve the safety of journalists and to combat systemic impunity.
- Between 2012 and 2016, 530 journalists were killed, an average of two deaths per week. According to UNESCO, 92 % of these were local journalists. So far this year, 42 journalists, 5 citizen journalists and 8 media assistants have been killed globally, according to Reporters without Borders.
- These are serious attacks on freedom of expression and freedom of the press – and they are serious attacks on democracy.
- Some journalists are silenced for reporting dangerous conflicts. Some are silenced for criticising authorities and exposing corruption and organised crime. For every journalist killed, many more face the risk of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, torture and other threats. Many are forced to give up their work, and diversity of voices is lost.
- The perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. In 9 out of 10 journalist killings, those responsible go unpunished. This is unacceptable. All states must ensure that threats and attacks are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially.
- Every act of violence that goes unpunished encourages further violence. This means that accountability for attacks against journalists is a key to preventing future attacks.
- It was in recognition of the far-reaching consequences of impunity, especially for crimes against journalists, that the UN General Assembly in 2013 adopted the resolution that proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’.
- The resolution also urged states to implement concrete measures to counter the culture of impunity. The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013 on this exact day.
- An international normative framework is in place. However, effective implementation at the national level is overdue.
- The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity provides a framework for the UN to work with all stakeholders, including governments, civil society organisations, media houses and academia.
- We welcome the initiatives from UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to strengthen implementation of the UN Plan of Action. The June conference identified 30 ways of translating the plan into national policies and practices. This was a clear call for action to all of us, and I am sure this will be discussed during the conference today and tomorrow.
- Civil society groups and media organisations play an important part by raising awareness about the issue, reporting and documenting attacks, and assisting in the development and implementation of legislation and policies. In addition, they provide crucial training in digital security and self-protection.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is proud to supportthe important work of organisations such as the International Federation of Journalists, the Norwegian Union of Journalists, and Norwegian and International PEN.
- Last but not least, we greatly appreciate our partnership with Oslo and Akershus University College. I would like to thank you for organising this conference and mobilising key actors in the field. I wish you all fruitful discussions, and I look forward to continuing our dialogue and cooperation.