International media groups have supported calls for the United Nations to adopt a convention on the safety of journalists following a rise in the number killed last year as a result of their work.
About 60 media groups along with representatives from countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Palestine were supporting the draft convention on the safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals.
The convention sets out obligations to protect journalists from threats on their lives, properly investigate crimes against them, stop arbitrary arrests and safeguard the anonymity of sources.
It also pushes for “national security” concerns not to be misused in efforts to disrupt the work of journalists.
Last year, some 80 media workers were killed, according to on estimate.
The backing from press groups and outlets – including the International Federation of Journalists, the European Broadcasting Union and Al-Jazeera – fell during the latest United National Human Rights Council session in Geneva.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Today’s event was an important step in building support for the adoption of the convention and more importantly putting action to protect journalists and tackle impunity higher up the agenda of the Human Rights Council.
“If impunity is allowed to go unchallenged, if journalists self-censor, if societies are deprived of information then media freedom and democracy suffer.”
The City, University of London law school lecturer Dr Carmen Draghici presented the convention, which she authored, to the UNHCR and answered legal queries.
A copy of her presentation statement reads: “A convention dedicated to the safety of journalists would make a momentous political statement.
“It would acknowledge journalists’ distinctiveness in terms of risks and assist national authorities in understanding their obligations by consolidating all legal sources in one treaty.
She also claimed that the convention would “intensify international scrutiny over attacks against journalists and send a message that the international community does not condone such crimes”.
Last month, the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said governments could not “remain silent” on press freedom and described attacks on journalists as “outrageous”.
He also called on governments to “strengthen press freedom” in October last year, following the murder of Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova.