CPJ welcomes UN Human Rights resolution on releasing jailed journalists, right to encryption

Washington, September 29, 2016–The United Nations Human Rights Council’s annual resolution on journalist safety for the first time urges all states to release arbitrarily detained journalists. The resolution, co-sponsored by 87 countries and adopted today in Geneva, raises new concerns about mounting attacks on journalists during elections and calls for states to protect the confidentiality of journalist sources.

The resolution also addresses for the first time the need to protect the rights of journalists to use encryption and anonymity tools, which are essential to modern reporting and safety in the digital age. As in previous years, it calls on countries to do more to combat impunity in violence against journalists and ensure their ability to work independently and without undue interference.

“We welcome this resolution, which acknowledges that U.N. member states are responsible for much of the violence against journalists and must do more to combat it,” said CPJ’s advocacy director, Courtney Radsch. “We hope to see more concrete action from member states, including revision of legal frameworks that threaten media independence and halting the arbitrary detention of journalists.”

The resolution, a biennual occurrence since 2012, was adopted by consensus. It asks the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to report back to the council on the effectiveness of existing monitoring and complaint mechanisms related to journalist safety and requests states report to UNESCO on the status of judicial inquiry into attacks on journalists. Typically less than half of such requests are answered.

The resolution also emphasizes the need for media organizations to provide safety training and protective equipment to journalists and media workers. This echoes the Freelance Journalist Safety Principles adopted by the ACOS Alliance, a group of news organizations and press groups named for “A Culture of Safety,” of which CPJ is a founding member. According to CPJ research, the past few years have been the most dangerous period on record for journalists in terms of those imprisoned because of their work and killed in the line of duty.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The fourth paragraph has been modified to correct how often the resolution is adopted.