The Global Conference for Media Freedom, co-organized by the British and Canadian foreign ministries, ended Thursday with discussions that predominantly circled around slain journalists and media freedom. The two-day conference, held at the Printworks event center in London, was joined by over a thousand guests from 100 countries, including journalists, academics, politicians and diplomats. The conference was held to trigger a global initiative to safeguard journalists and fortify global media freedom. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered last October and Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a bomb attack in 2017, were widely mentioned and marked by the panelists and participants.
One of the panel discussions placed a lot of importance on efforts to bring to justice those who have killed journalists, review national attempts to resolve cold cases and examine attempts to affect change in U.N. member states to prevent impunity.
In addition to these topics and media-government interactions; the increasing relations between the media and investors in digital media also brought about new debates, such as ethical journalism and sustainability of the media.
One of the key proposals of the conference was creating an international judicial committee for journalists which will include judges, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders from all over the world. Also, to reduce pressure against journalists and media on a global scale, prevent journalist murders, attacks, kidnappings and ensure the safety of journalists; a new initiative based on international and civil society pressure to hold the governments accountable is to be created.
The participants and journalists, who called the civil society to work together to hold governments accountable, also emphasized that the media should also be held accountable when necessary in terms of taking responsibility on their own cases.
According to information sourced from organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and UNESCO, 2018 was the worst year on record for violence and abuse against journalists. More than half of the journalists were deliberately targeted and there has been a 15 percent increase in such killings since 2017.
Again, in 2018, at least 99 journalists were killed, a further 348 imprisoned and 60 held hostage. Beyond that, almost 1,000 journalists and media workers have been killed in the past decade. Among them, 93 percent of those killed were local journalists and 7 percent are foreign correspondents.
Nine in 10 cases of murdered journalists remain unresolved. According to Freedom House, only 10 percent of the world's popu
lation enjoys a free press, and media independence and the autonomy of independent regulators have faced increased pressure. Since there has been an increase in incidents against journalists across all categories including murders, imprisonment, hostage-taking and enforced disappearance, journalists face dangers beyond war zones and extremism, including increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption, crime and the breakdown of law and order.
Another finding of the research conducted by these institutions is that the impunity for crimes against journalists remains the norm, with justice in only one in 10 cases.
In the two-day conference, the sessions and panels were moderated by British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrysita Freedland, and politicians, prominent journalists, human rights experts and media representatives. The subjects addressed included, "Transforming the Media Environment," "Trust in the Media: the U.K. in Focus," "Media Freedom in the Americas and Balkans," "Media ownership and Media Independence," "Safety of Female Journalists," "Why Public Media Matters," "Safety and Protection of Journalists: Understanding the Contemporary Threats," " The Innovation to End Journalist Murders ," "Protecting Journalists in Conflict Zones in the Middle East and North Africa," "Navigating disinformation," "Safety and Protection of Journalists: Towards a Shared Solution," "Religion and the Media: Telling the Untold Story," and "Taking a Stand: How do we defend Media Freedom?"