RightOn – Access to information and the safety of journalists in times of crisis
In partnership with the Permanent Missions of Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, UNFPA, the Geneva Academy, the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, World Jewish Conference, the Geneva Rights Platform, and the Geneva Internet Platform, the URG has launched a new digital initiative to keep the conversation on key human rights issues going during these times of lockdowns and self-isolation.
The RightOn initiative provides a platform for debate and exchange of ideas on topical human rights issues through regular webinars. For this specific session the RightOn project partnered with the Permanent Missions of Austria, Canada and the Netherlands and was supported by the core groups of the resolutions on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists. The ninth of session took place on Thursday 4th June 2020 and focussed on the issue of ‘Access to information and the protection of journalists in times of crisis’
In times when public authorities must take significant decisions that affect public health, civil liberties and people’s prosperity, the public’s right to access information about such decisions is vital. Governments must, under international human rights law, protect the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive, and impart information of all kinds, regardless of frontiers. In times of crisis, the provision of reliable information in accessible formats to all, including by ensuring access to the internet, is crucial for governments’ efforts to protect the public.
Free, independent, plural and diverse media have proven to be an indispensable ally of governments and public authorities in informing the public, enabling individuals to exercise their rights to seek and receive information and to develop opinions so that they can take informed decisions and appropriate steps to protect themselves and their communities. Furthermore, ensuring media pluralism and strengthening professional journalism plays an important role in countering harmful mis- and disinformation. In this context, more than ever, protecting journalists and media workers must include not only their physical but also their legal and economic safety. Attacks on journalists must be followed by effective investigations with a view of prosecuting and punishing those responsible. This webinar looked at challenges for the right to access to information in times when most governments need to come up with strategies to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their societies, including its human rights impacts and the repercussions on their health systems and economies. It will discuss the importance of the right to access to information and of free, independent, plural and diverse media for inclusive and peaceful societies and democracies, for holding public institutions and officials accountable and for good governance. Panelists also considered the specific, increased risks for journalists reporting on governments’ social and economic policies and the importance of an enabling environment for journalism, which includes their economic safety.
A summary of the event can be found here:
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