New initiatives to support press freedom launched at WPFC 2020

During the World Press Freedom Conference 2020 several new initiatives have been launched to promote press freedom and protect journalists. This year the WPFC is taking place on a digital platform. The event is organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and UNESCO. Foreign minister Stef Blok: ‘No journalist should have to fear intimidation, violence or persecution. Journalists should just be able to do their job. They are the oxygen of a free, inclusive and diverse society.’

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok during WPFC

Commitment by almost 60 countries
Almost 60 countries endorsed the The Hague Commitment on the Safety of Journalists. They pledged to investigate and prosecute all forms of online and offline attacks on journalists and other media personnel, both in their own country and internationally. They also pledged to take immediate action when female journalists are exposed to specific risks and threats. It was the first time in the history of the WPFC that a Round Table gathered such a large number of foreign affairs ministers, on invitation by Minister Blok.

Action plan
In a concrete response to the Round Table of Ministers, the Netherlands is earmarking €7 million for an action plan to promote press freedom and the safety of journalists worldwide. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will collaborate on this with UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the form of an international campaign. Special attention will be paid to the position of female journalists, access to information and ending impunity for crimes against journalists.

Shelter City Network

Temporary shelters
The Shelter City programme will be expanded. Sixteen Dutch cities will offer temporary shelter to foreign human rights defenders where they are given respite and can receive training, for example in security or lobbying. Over the next five years The Hague will offer two extra places a year to host journalists who have been personally threatened. The programme is run by Justice and Peace Netherlands and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Legal forum and training
This year, UNESCO and the Netherlands are also introducing a forum for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, legal experts and institutions, which will become an annual feature at the WPFC. The forum’s aim is to exchange practical experiences with protecting freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. This Forum of Legal Actors is a joint initiative of UNESCO, Free Press Unlimited and the Asser Institute for International and European Law. In 2021 and 2022 the Asser Institute will provide training to judges and prosecutors, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Police training
In 2021 UNESCO will provide three-day training courses for police officers and other security personnel on the protection of journalists during protest meetings and on freedom of expression. The Netherlands has set aside €1 million for the training courses and other activities promoting freedom of expression with duty bearers. UNESCO has already trained 3,400 security force members in more than 17 countries.