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CPJ dismayed as U.N. journalist safety plan falters

New York, March 28, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply disappointed that a U.N. plan to promote journalist safety and curb impunity in journalist killings was not endorsed during UNESCO's 28th biennial session held in Paris.

The U.N. Draft Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was expected to be endorsed by the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication Council (IPDC) in the March 22-23 session. The IPDC is charged with strengthening news media in developing countries.

People involved in the deliberations said the plan was blocked by member states that included India, Brazil, and Pakistan, countries where CPJ research shows high levels of impunity in journalist murders. Although the IPDC's action was considered a setback, the plan will now be submitted to another U.N. body for potential endorsement.

"At least 900 journalists have been killed on duty in the past two decades. More than 600 of them were murdered, and most of the cases remain unsolved," said CPJ Director of Advocacy and Communications Gypsy Guillén Kaiser. "We are appalled that this historic opportunity for the international community to take concrete action has been thwarted."

Among its many points, the plan would establish a U.N. inter-agency mechanism to evaluate journalist safety, while strengthening the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The plan calls for assistance to member states in passing national legislation to prosecute the killers of journalists. It calls for partnerships between the United Nations and press safety organizations along with global awareness campaigns. It also calls for development of emergency response procedures for journalists in the field and provisions for press safety in conflict zones. CPJ reviewed a draft of the plan in September 2011 and offered comments.

After last week's session, U.N. officials said they would transmit the plan to the Chief Executives Board for Coordination where it could be considered for endorsement, according to a UNESCO press release. The board centralizes operations of all specialized U.N. bodies.

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