UNESCO organized safety training for East African journalists

By United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

NAIROBI, Kenya, December 20, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) sponsored an inaugural safety and protection training workshop for East African journalists, from 6 to 8 December 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya. Organized by Article 19 within the framework of the IPDC project, “Bolstering the safety and protection of journalists in East Africa”, the event brought together 25 journalists from six East African countries: Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Rwanda.

The first in a series of planned interventions, this activity responded to the increasing dangers faced by journalists, human rights defenders and bloggers operating in these countries, with a view to enabling them to cope more effectively with the daily risks they encounter in the course of their work. Much concern was raised by Article 19 about the safety of journalists operating in the region.

“We are committed to assisting journalists to increase their ability to protect themselves, and to hold public bodies accountable for meeting their obligations to create the conditions for an independent and free media,” said Henry Maina, Director of Article 19 - Eastern Africa.

The participants represented both state-owned broadcasters and major commercial media houses from across the region. The three-day training session exposed the journalists to various important topics, including international freedom of expression standards, ethics and journalism, security, self-protection and risk management.

“This training was quite timely and rare. I have been in journalism for a long time but never had such training, even though we have covered live conflicts in the region. The fact that journalists from the region, currently covering the African Mission in Somalia for example, have received this training means we have more skills to assess the risks in each situation,” said Stephen Bwire, a Ugandan journalist.

A UNESCO representative reminded participants that the Organization has been mandated to promote freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right and a cornerstone of democracy, essential for attainment of other human rights. UNESCO once more called on governments to take a firm stance to prevent the murders of journalists, and to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes and acts of violence against media professionals are duly prosecuted.

Last September UNESCO, in cooperation with other UN agencies and international professional partners, drew up a plan of action to improve the safety of journalists and combat impunity of crimes against them. It is tabled for discussion at the 28th session of the Intergovernmental Council of IPDC next March, prior to submission to the bodies in charge of the UN-wide coordination.

This training programme will be followed by advocacy sessions, monitoring and documentation of cases of aggression against media workers in the specific countries concerned. A network of journalists trained to monitor, document and report attacks and reprisals against the press is planned to be created under this project.