Qatar’s authorities and civil groups alike have repeatedly put the worldwide increase in attacks against journalists firmly on the international agenda. In a latest effort, Jassim al-Ma’awda of the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations reiterated this pledge in a speech delivered to the 20th UN Human Rights Council. The council is in session until July 6th.
Al-Ma’awda called for a comprehensive and coordinated international approach to provide adequate protection to journalists and to bring violators of journalists’ rights to justice. Qatar welcomed the reports of the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, both dealing with journalists’ safety and impunity. He reminded the council of the continuous efforts of Qatar in this light, referring in particular to the efforts of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) and the Qatari National Human Rights Committee (NHRC).
DCMF director Jan Keulen, currently discussing impunity in the context of the 2012 IPI World Congress, expressed his appreciation for the efforts of Qatar in Geneva: "The Doha Centre for Media Freedom welcomes the speech of Qatar's representative at the 20th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Qatar clearly wants to end the impunity of press freedom violations and is an active advocate for the protection of journalists.
DCMF especially supports the ideas of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr. Frank de la Rue, to create mechanisms to prevent and prohibit crimes against freedom of expression. DCMF also advocates a mandated regional office in the Middle East and North Africa to report on the state of freedom of expression and media freedom along the lines of the Special Rapporteurs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)."
Earlier this year, on March 22, DCMF took part in UNESCO’s IPDC Council session in Paris on this topic. The session resulted in recommendations endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board. In April, DCMF participated in the journalists’ safety conference of IFJ in Cairo.
Both DCMF and the NHRC repeated their strong positions on the safety of journalists at the Doha Forum 2012. A panel was dedicated there to follow up on the recommendations formulated during the International Conference to Protect Journalists, organised by the NHRC in January.
“For the Doha Centre, this joint Qatari lobby at the international level is very important as it is governments who have a primary responsibility in guaranteeing safety and stopping impunity” explains Omar Makhfi, DCMF’s Senior Training Coordinator. “At the same time, media organisations and individual journalists also have a role to play. DCMF assists those by means of awareness raising activities and trainings for journalists on safety issues to provide a comprehensive approach at all these levels.”
DCMF safety programme is very much in development. Nevertheless its broad approach is already vividly clear, ranging from actively engaging with the intergovernmental community to training journalists in basic first aid, safe operations in dangerous areas and secure (digital) communication.
Makhfi further stressed the important role of media organisations in this equation: “they particularly need to be aware of the risks their employees might face when being sent to conflicts or otherwise dangerous areas and their responsibilities towards their staff, as well as freelancers. DCMF aims to both point this out and to assist them with in-house training.”
Recently, training workshops have been implemented in Libya and rural Pakistan that emphasise these subjects and many more are planned in Qatar and the Arab world, in particular in Yemen, Gaza and Iraq.