UNESCO promotes protection of journalists and other media actors in the digital age at the Internet Governance Forum


Almost 100 participants from around the world debated the safety of online media actors at a workshop convened by UNESCO, Article 19 and CELE-UP (Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Universidad de Palermo) as part of the 8th Internet Governance Forum in Bali this week.

UNESCO presented its preliminary exploration of a global research on online safety in a series of thematic areas ranging from illegitimate surveillance and digital attacks to a gender perspective, digital literacy and safety training.

Panelists from Latin America and Indonesia assessed major challenges of protecting journalists and bloggers in their respective regions, pointing to problem of impunity for those who attacked journalists, new threats posed by digital technology, and the lack of awareness and training about digital literacy.

“Bloggers should be protected as they face many challenges - licensing issues, protection of sources, accreditation, ethical responsibility - just like journalists, but no organization protects them,” was the message from Indonesian and other bloggers, who highlighted the contribution to public debate made by their output.

Reference was made to the UN Human Rights Committee’s defining of journalism as “a function shared by a wide range of actors, including professional full-time reporters and analysts, as well as bloggers and others who engage in forms of self-publication in print, on the Internet or elsewhere”.

Article 19 shared its recent policy brief on “The right to blog” which stated that the main protections that apply to journalists should apply to bloggers (including the right to protect sources, accreditation and guarantee of safety).

Other speakers addressed complexities of the legal frameworks including criminal defamation cases and whether media self-regulatory bodies could incorporate bloggers who agreed to work by the relevant code of ethical standards.

The session was chaired by Mr Guy Berger, UNESCO Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development. He pointed to the relevance to online media actors of the UN Action Plan of Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity.