Held in Vienna on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity
– – The spoken text will prevail in the event of differences. – –
Madam Chair, Excellencies, colleagues and delegates,
We have gathered here in Vienna today, to reaffirm our joint commitment towards the protection and safety of journalists – a topic perhaps more pressing than ever before.
As we are marking the 10th Anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists, we find ourselves, unfortunately, in a world in which spaces for free and independent journalism continue to shrink.
While we are discussing this urgent matter today, we see journalists around the world taking immense personal risks to get facts and stories about the lives of people in conflicts and crises published:
Over the past weeks, we have been witnessing the brave women and young people who are confronting the brutal Iranian regime in many – often creative – forms of peaceful protests. Being able to see these images is not something we can take for granted: it is thanks to courageous journalists, media makers and free speech defenders who – despite considerable risks for their own lives – enable us to understand better what moves this new generation of young Iranians, who so wholeheartedly call for change through their slogan “Women, Life, Freedom”.
As Russia continues to commit crimes against humanity in a war that it never should have started, it is a necessity – I would even argue: our ethical responsibility – to understand in detail what is happening with communities affected the most by armed conflict. We learn about their unbearably scattered realities through courageous journalists who continue their work under the harshest of circumstances – now even in face of a grim winter as well as under the challenges of life in exile.
These courageous critical voices within the fields of journalism and the media deserve our full support. I am, therefore, proud that Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and State Minister for Culture and Media Claudia Roth have jointly announced the Hannah-Arendt-Initiative as my government’s new programme to protect and support journalists in crises and conflicts. We have named this programme after the German-Jewish intellectual Hannah Arendt, who once had to flee from Nazi Germany. Her conviction that, “the raison d’être of politics is freedom”, reflects the essential aim of this new initiative of my government: to strengthen journalism as an integral part of democracies.
During a pilot phase of this programme, a network of partner organizations under the Hannah-Arendt-Initiative is already supporting projects for journalists from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. We hope to extend the focus of our work soon. During the pilot phase in 2022, we have invested more than 7 million Euros in the support of journalists in crises and conflicts as well as in exile.
The German government is developing this programme closely with existing project partners from civil society, as we believe that their stake and co-ownership in such a process is key. I am particularly delighted that some of the partners, including the Deutsche Welle Akademie, JX Fund, MiCT – Media in Cooperation and Transition and the European Center for Press and Media Freedom have been contributing to this conference through their presence at the pre-conference. Through their work for independent journalism in crises and conflicts around the world, they contribute to a critical public debate about contexts of repression – both in their home countries and in exile.
Germany will continue its commitment towards the protection of journalists. Besides the newly established Hannah-Arendt-Initiative, we also support action in the framework of the United Nations. Let me recall that UNESCO is the Specialised UN Agency tasked to promote free flow of information and developing new communication channels. Since 1978, UNESCO has a unique mechanism, older than the Human Rights Council or the Universal Periodic Review, which addresses human rights violations against journalists. Through consensual negotiations with the state concerned there have been hundreds of cases where journalists could either be released or whose conditions in jail have been improved. Germany continues to support this mechanism actively. We also gladly co-sponsor the UN Resolution “The Safety of Journalists” and we reaffirm the recommendations for the protection of journalists, as well as our commitment towards the aims of the European Media Freedom Act.
Please allow me to close by using this opportunity to express our appreciation to Federal Minister Schallenberg for Austria’s leading role in this important portfolio. Our joint efforts to strengthen independent journalism is crucial for the backbone of democracy.
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