High Commissioner Türk, Under-Secretary-General Fleming,
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muratov,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to join you for this conference on the ‘Safety of Journalists: Protecting media to protect democracy.’
Less than three weeks ago, journalist Rafael Emiro Moreno, was shot dead in the Colombian city of Montelíbano.
He was murdered by two unknown assailants on a motorcycle.
Mr. Moreno had been under police protection since 2019, following death threats relating to his reporting on corruption and illegal armed groups.
He is one of more than 70 journalists killed this year.
We are here today to address how we can better protect journalists and commit to ensuring their safety.
We are here to address how we can curtail the staggering rates of impunity for crimes against media workers.
I thank Minister Schallenberg, and our host country Austria, for convening this important conference, in cooperation with UNSCEO and OCHA, to mark the 10th anniversary of ‘UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity’.
At the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime we know too well, that journalists investigating corruption and organised crime, like Rafael Emiro Moreno, often risk their lives and are subjected to threats and violence.
The UNODC is the guardian of the legally binding UN Convention against Corruption, and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
Those Conventions can be valuable tools in developing the right measures to protect those reporting on crime and corruption.
Some countries have included provisions that specifically protect journalists who uncover stories about criminal organisations.
A free and independent media is paramount to investigate and expose corruption.
And UNODC is committed to promote the reporting on corruption and crime.
As part of our Sahel Strategy to counter corruption, we helped to establish the ‘Cell Norbert Zongo for Investigative Journalism in West Africa’, known as CENOZO. And its online platform which was launched in May 2018.
CENOZO facilitates data collection and cross-border investigation in the region. It was inspired by one of West Africa’s most notable journalists, Norbert Zongo, who was killed after exposing extortion and impunity within government.
CENOZO brings together over 50 journalists from across West Africa to strengthen the capacities of investigative journalists in the region through training, access to grants and networking, legal advice and technical support for investigations.
UNODC’s support includes training the Cell’s journalists on cybersecurity and safety matters. This has enhanced journalists’ capacity to protect themselves and their sources by using secured communication tools.
So far, the collaborative work has exposed corruption cases, illicit financial flows, organised crime and trafficking.
Many of their investigations have successfully triggered action from State institutions, that have led to official investigations.
Promoting the rule of law, and access to justice is at the heart of UNODC’s work.
It is clear we must enhance the capacity of legislators, law enforcement, and the judiciary to hold those responsible for attacks on journalists to account.
UNODC currently operates in almost 100 countries around the world, through a network of 130 field offices.
We support countries on the ground, to develop national action plans, strategies and legislation to combat organised crime and corruption based on prevention, prosecution and protection.
This includes training people working in the criminal justice sector, from police officers to Judges.
Female journalists are particularly exposed to online harassment.
Online attacks -- including sexual and gender-based violence -- seek to silence women and girls.
And decrease their engagement and presence in public life.
Our Global Programme on Cybercrime has strengthened the abilities of almost 50 Member countries to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate cybercrime cases.
UNODC also works to bolster female participation in the judicial process, from crime scene investigation to the courtroom.
Because we know that women’s representation in the criminal justice sector is linked to a more effective, victim-centred response to crime.
More women in justice, is good for justice both ‘on’ and ‘offline’.
Journalists should not have to face victimisation and threats from criminal groups and corrupt authorities, simply for doing their job.
As an international community, we must work harder to strengthen the implementation of the UN Plan of Action and create a safe environment for media workers.
This will take the renewed commitment of all stakeholders including Member States, civil society, academia, and the private sector.
Because silencing a journalist violates their rights.
It has a chilling effect on free expression.
It allows corruption and impunity to flourish.
And jeopardises the right of society to be informed.