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UNESCO restates commitment to punish perpetrators of injustice against journalists

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The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), on Thursday restated its commitment to ensuring perpetrators of injustice against journalists were punished to make the media space safe.

UNESCO’s Director General, Ms Audrey Azoulay, said this in Abuja during a one-day training organised for journalists across the country to commemorate the 2019 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

The year’s celebration was with the theme, ‘Keeping Safe’ and focused on ensuring that the media remained the watchdog of the society; reporting objectively and staying safe.

Azoulay, represented by Mr Lamine Sow, the Senior Education Specialist of UNESCO, said that the statistics of journalists molested in the line of their jobs was alarming and required that the masterminds of such acts were punished.

“In the last 10 years, at least 881 journalists have been killed around the world for simply telling the truth. Forty-four have died so far in 2019, and in almost nine out of 10 cases, these crimes have gone unpunished.

“UNESCO seeks to prevent these tragedies by promoting safe environment for journalists and media workers, notably through the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

“However, when the worst happens, UNESCO calls for those responsible for journalist deaths to be held accountable.

“It fights impunity in the field by training judges and members of the judiciary, cooperating with human right courts and working with government to create national prosecution mechanisms,” she said.

She added that the measures were also supported by a new Global Media Defense Fund, created by the UK and Canada, to be implemented by UNESCO.

According to her, the fund complements the initial work by the organisation including multi donor programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, and the International Programme for the Development of Communication.

The director general emphasised that this year’s celebration focused on local journalists working on corruption and politics in less conflict prone areas, who represented 93 per cent of journalist deaths in the past 10 years.

“UNESCO holds to account all those who put journalists at risk, who kill journalists, those who do nothing to stop violence.

“The end of a journalist’s life should never be the end of the quest for truth,” Azoulay said.

The President, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Christopher Isiguzo, pointed out that it was difficult to keep safe in an environment that did not insure the lives of citizens.

Isiguzo was represented by Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chapter President of the union.

He further said journalists were at the cross roads to report fairly or either be biased to the favour of interest groups, government and influential elites in the society.

Isiguzo added that the NUJ would be persistent in ensuring fair reportage and holding the government accountable, as the primary objective of the media to citizens.

“The safety of journalists for NUJ is sacrosanct and we will continue to pursue policies to guarantee safety of journalists.

“We will continue to hold accountable institutions against the safety of journalists and we need to stand firm on decent media practice.

“We also need to remind the government that according to Chapter 22 of the constitution, which reposes the responsibility of holding the government accountable to the Nigerian people, will be implemented by the NUJ,” he said.

He, however, said that it was important that the union and relevant stakeholders explored other avenues of keeping safe while projecting the truth.

Mrs Olubisi Olagbenro, Chief Secretary, National Commission for UNESCO, said the country was committed to protecting the lives of citizens, including journalists.

Olagbenro commended UNESCO for bringing to fore the ills perpetrated against journalists and called for sustenance.

The National Orientation Agency, Nigeria Army and International Organisation on Migration, were among agencies represented at the event.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that UNESCO also at the event awarded five journalists out of 42, emerged winners of the content development and investigative journalism contest.

They received prices of laptops and professional cameras.

Edited by Abiemwense Moru/Nyisom Fiyigon Dore

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