Irina Bokova: I stand up to call for justice every time every time a journalist is killed

86 min

On July 7 Unesco Director General Irina Bokova gives a key note speech in Swedish Radio’s seminar “Who will take the political responsibility to protect free speech?” in Almedalen, Gotland. She will explore the paradoxes facing freedom of expression today.
   Here are Bokova’s thoughts on her and UNESCOS global work for freedom of speech and the safety of journalists.

Our times feature, on the one hand, great opportunities for new forms of expression and exchange, across all borders, bringing in women and men from all societies. These developments open vast new horizons for creativity and dialogue. At the same time, new threats are arising to freedom of expression. In a context of rapid change, these are combining with older barriers to pose formidable challenges – most tragically, in terms of violence against journalists. Journalists face abuse and threats.

Women journalists are subject to particular forms of harassment and abuse, and the digital age is giving rise to new challenges. Most tragic of all, journalists are killed because of what they do. 825 journalists have lost their lives over the past decade. This intolerable situation is made worse because less than six percent of killings have been resolved.

All of this underlines the importance of the role of UNESCO as the United Nations agency working on the frontlines of free speech across the world today, to enhance the safety of journalists, to support media development, and to promote press freedom. UNESCO crafted and is spearheading the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, working with Governments, with professional associations, to establish media monitoring committees, to create national mechanisms, and to train journalists.

As Director-General I am mandated to stand up every time every time a journalist is killed in the line of duty to call for justice. The Organization is working to bolster the role of women in and through the media, and also to highlight the importance of media and information literacy, especially for young women and men, on the frontlines of change.

In all this, UNESCO relies on the support of Member States, and Sweden plays an outstanding role in this respect, in underpinning UNESCO’s action in countries and regions across the world. All of this is essential to take forward the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – an agenda “of the people, by the people and for the people,” set forth in 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16, to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Information (in Swedish) about the seminar in Almedalen, which will be recorded and published as a podcast later