UNESCO and the United Kingdom scale up efforts to promote media freedom

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay and the United Kingdom’s Minister for the Commonwealth, the UN and South Asia, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), to scale up engagement promoting safety of journalists and freedom of the press. This agreement will reinforce UNESCO’s ongoing cooperation with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the framework of the recently-launched Global Campaign for Media Freedom.

“Today, the promotion of press freedom is a flagship of UNESCO’s action, and I am happy the UK is renewing its commitment to UNESCO as an institution, and to its mandate on media freedom,” stated the Director-General of UNESCO.

The MoU aims to foster international legal cooperation to enhance the safety of journalists through a High-Level Legal Panel and promote media freedom around the world and at international fora. In signing the agreement, the UK also reaffirmed its commitment to the UNESCO-administered Global Media Defence Fund as a key initiative that will contribute to the objectives of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The agreement was signed following the UNGA side-event “Media Freedom: A Global Responsibility,” convened by the UK Foreign Secretary, in the presence of the Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Hamdok, the Minister of State of the United Kingdom, the Director-General of UNESCO, the UK Special Envoy for Media Freedom, Amal Clooney, and journalist Jason Rezaian. The event was attended by delegations from the 30 countries that have joined the Global Pledge on Media Freedom launched by the UK and Canada earlier this year, as well as representatives from the media community and specialized NGOs.

During the event, the Prime Minister of Sudan recalled that freedom of the press is a pillar of democracy, good governance and human rights. He promised that journalists will never again be jailed in Sudan, and asked for international support for the media reform process underway in Sudan.

The Director-General thanked the delegations of the United Kingdom and Canada for their commitment to strengthening media freedom through the establishment of the Global Media Defense Fund, which was announced in July. She also spoke about UNESCO’s actions with regard to the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and its support for the development of legislative frameworks in countries across the globe. “UNESCO is committed to working alongside Sudan to promote media freedom and ensure journalists can do their job safely and freely,” she added.

“Abuses of media freedom are stifling speech and shredding the very fabric of democracy,” said Ms Clooney, who declared the need to protect journalists concerns every region or country without exception and called on leaders to step up to promote media freedom.

The panel discussion featured interventions by heads of delegations at the ministerial level, including from Canada, Ghana, Estonia and Montenegro, as well as the heads of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the Center for International Media Assistance.

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