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Journalists Seek Protection in Proposed Post-2015 Agenda

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2014 (IPS) - As civil disputes, societal destruction and political unrest swept through the world last year, about 92 journalists were killed in the line of duty. Reporting from war zones—often without proper protection, journalists have continued to risk their lives to inform the general public.

In 1993, the General Assembly declared 3 May ‘World Press Freedom Day’, an initiative aimed at upholding the safety and integrity of both journalists and their profession.

“Free media, traditional and new are indispensable,” said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon while addressing an audience at a pre-World Press Freedom event on Thursday.

Journalists repeatedly face discrimination, violence, prison sentences and even death for their work, according to the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) whose Executive Director Joel Simon said: “Intolerant, repressive societies are using anti-state charges and ‘terrorist’ labels to intimidate, detain, and imprison journalists.”

During Thursday’s event, a number of practicing journalists joined the stage to share their stories, some horrific and others inspirational—but all a testament to the risks journalists take on a daily basis.

Since 1992, over 1,000 journalists have been killed yearly—nearly one a week.

CPJ also reports that September 11 had a great impact on the mistreatment of journalists with governments passing laws that focused on anti-terrorism and national security. The scrutiny towards journalists increased as they continued to ask hard questions and cover sensitive issues such as insurgencies, ethnic minorities and political opposition.

In 2013, 200 journalists were jailed, and according to CPJ, China, Turkey, Eritrea, Iran and Syria remain notorious for imprisoning journalists.

Panelists at the event included speakers such as President of the General Assembly, John Ashe and CBS News Correspondent and President of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) Pamela Falk, drew attention to the work of journalists far and beyond conflict reportage — and towards the role of media in the post 2015 development agenda.

The marginalized are the ones who stand to benefit from press freedom , and as Vibeke Jensen, Director at UNESCO Liaison Office in New York said, “the safety of journalists is fundamental” in ensuring that poverty and under development, especially in regards to women and children, are covered.

Falk asked the UN to “make 2014 the year to protect journalists, by adding the freedom of expression and press freedom to the post 2015 development agenda.”

The World Press Freedom Day highlights three interrelated themes: sustainability and integrity of journalism, media’s importance in development and safety of journalists and the rule of law.

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