The United Kingdom and Canada expressed their commitment to promoting media freedom across the globe as an essential component of economic prosperity, social development and resilient democracies. The President of the Press Union of Liberia, Mr. Charles Coffey, who made the disclosure, also indicated this commitment was part of a two-day global conference on media freedom convened in London by the governments of UK and Canada.
The PUL president, in a statement told journalists in Monrovia, said the media conference – the first of its kind, was aimed at defending media freedom. The conference brought together delegates from more than 100 countries including 60 minister and more than 1,500 journalists, academics and campaigners.
Coffey said the turn out sent a resounding message that the media is not a western one but one of universal value. “At best, a free media both protects society from the abuse of power and helps release the full potential of a nation,” Mr. Coffey indicated.
PUL President Coffey, who represented Liberia at the conference provided an insight of the event, media freedom is a right to which all governments have committed to as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Mr. Coffey further that the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres highlighted on 25 February 2019, how the media has become significantly less
Free in recent years, including unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets and attempts to control the media.
Coffey said in 2018 UN and press freedom organizations reported that over 99 journalists and media workers were killed, over 300 were in detention and 60 were being held hostage, saying “We must work together to stop the alarming increase in attacks.
Coffey said few perpetrators of these crimes are held to account, and pointed out that after 11 years, of the 46 journalists who suffered violent deaths in 2008, only 8 cases have been resolved.
He indicated that 2018 is the worst year on record for violence and abuse against journalists, during which more than half of the journalist were deliberately targeted.
Given the importance of the global information space as a shared public good, Coffey said there is a renewed to safeguard it integrity in the context that the widespread of digital technologies has brought disinformation, previously a feature of print and broadcast media into the online world.
Howe3ver, he said the two-day conference in London helped find common ground amongst states in addressing these broader challenges to the online and offline information space.
He pointed out that the global conference for media freedom is therefore part of the of the international campaign launched to respond to the UN Secretary General’s call “to protect journalists and media workers, and to create the conditions journalists need to do their essential work, and to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on them.”
The campaign aims to shine spotlight on media freedom everywhere, increasing the costs those violating it; improve the safety of journalist and media workers and their ability to work without interference, reducing attacks on journalists and easing restrictions on freedom of media and expression, Mr. Coffey said.
According to the PUL president a media global pledge made at the conference commits those that sign it to speak out and take action together, through a media freedom coalition, harness the power of diplomatic networks, through a new media freedom contact group, reinforce international initiatives to champion media freedom, meet annually to renew commitments and to address emerging threats and opportunities. The pledge was published and as part of the global conference for media freedom.
At the conference the British government announced some practical steps alongside its partners to address challenges in the media, by firstly saying it join other governments to establish a new global media defend fund, to be administered by UNESCO, which will take forward the UN plan of action on the safety of journalists.
Among the aims will be to help fund legal advice for journalists and safety training for this venturing into conflict zone. Britain will provide $3 million to the fund over the next 5 years and invite others to contribute, he noted.
Secondly, Mr. Coffey explained UK will establish an internal task force to help government to deliver their commitment on media freedom, including developing national action plans.
He further disclosed that the new global media defend fund to be administered by UNESCO, Coffey explained, will support media in a variety of ways, including supporting, training and providing legal support for journalist in the most dangerous parts of the world.
“It is also aimed at defending journalists, through support access to legal service, training journalist on issue of personal safety, establishing peer support networks for freelance journalists, and promoting citizen journalism in conflict and post conflict settings,” he said