OSCE participating States have duty to ensure the safety of journalists, Chairperson says
VILNIUS, 7 June 2011 – All OSCE participating States must act to fulfill their commitments to ensure the safety and security of journalists, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis said today as he opened a two-day meeting devoted to finding ways to better protect journalists.
Commitments to ensure the safety of journalists were introduced in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which created the OSCE's predecessor, the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe. They have been reaffirmed many times since, including at the 2010 OSCE Summit in Astana, where the 56 OSCE participating States adopted a declaration saying they "value the important role played by civil society and free media in helping us to ensure full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, including free and fair elections, and the rule of law."
Still, journalists continue to face threats.
"Journalists are killed or disappear in the OSCE region virtually every year. Dozens suffer from attacks aimed at preventing them from reporting information vital to the functioning of democracy and preservation of freedom," Ažubalis said, adding that state powers also can be used to hinder journalists' legitimate pursuit.
"When journalists can act without fear, security in their person and in their profession, they are empowered to bring vital information to the people. They become agents of democracy and freedom. They serve as a watchdog over the institutions of society. They can convey accurately and objectively the actions and attitudes of the power brokers of society. In this way, they are as vital as any other actor or institution in the democratic form of governance."
The Lithuanian OSCE Chairmanship organized the meeting together with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the former and incoming OSCE Chairmanships – Kazakhstan and Ireland – as well as Ukraine.
Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said murder - more than 30 journalists have been killed over the past five years in the OSCE region – was not the only way to threaten journalists' work.
"The freedom to express ourselves is questioned and challenged by many. Some of these challenges are blatant, others concealed and far too many result in physical harassment and deadly violence against journalists," she said. "The safety of journalists is a more relevant topic than ever before; the number of murdered, assaulted and intimidated journalists has been unacceptably high for several years all around the world, including the 56 participating States that comprise the OSCE."
Live video from the meeting is available online – please see http://www.osce.org/event/safety_2011