45th UN Human Rights Council: outcomes on the safety of journalists

Recently the United Nations held its 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (14 September – 7 October), as well as the 75th session of the General Assembly (15-30 September). Unlike previous years, these sessions were marked by virtual participation in online debates and side events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A wide range of thematic and country specific human rights issues and situations were discussed, including the safety of journalists.

Resolution A/HRC/45/L.42/Rev.1, on the safety of journalists, is one of the 35 resolutions that was adopted over the course of the Council. This resolution urges governments to end all attacks, reprisals and violence against the press. With at least 250 journalists currently in prison around the world and an impunity rate for crimes against journalists of almost 90 percent, this resolution is more important than ever. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis has had serious implications for the work and safety of media professionals, but has simultaneously highlighted the utter importance of their work in providing reliable information to the public. As mentioned in the resolution: ‘journalists and media workers serve a crucial function in times of crisis, and … States must take active measures to ensure that individuals and communities are fully informed about the full scope that any threat poses to their lives and health in order to make appropriate personal choices and decisions’.

Importantly, the resolution sheds light on the following issues:

  • Extraterritorial threats and the growing threat to the safety of journalists posed by non-state actors, including terrorist groups and criminal organisations;
  • Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) by business entities and individuals, to exercise pressure on journalists and stop them from critical and/or investigative reporting;
  • Disproportionate and undue restrictions on access to information;
  • Overbroad and vague laws criminalising journalism, including defamation and libel laws, laws on misinformation and disinformation or counter-terrorism and counter-extremism legislation;
  • The specific risks faced by women journalists in relation to their work, and the importance of taking a gender-responsive approach when considering measures to address the safety of journalists.

Learn more

To learn more about the safety of journalists and the specific issues listed above, see for example these pages on physical safety, legal safety, and the safety of women journalists in the Safety Reference Guide.