Jakarta Declaration highlights risks faced by journalists, Internet challenges and rise of fake news

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© UNESCO/Alfred Syriah
2017-05-23

Sixteen points in the recent Jakarta Declaration on press freedom deal with safety of journalists – a topic that was graphically underlined by the brutal killings last week of journalists in Mexico and Afghanistan

The Declaration calls on all stakeholders to collaborate in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

It also draws attention to the Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Strengthening the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity that will take place on 29 June 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Adopted by 1500 participants at the global celebration of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) in Jakarta, Indonesia (1-4 May 2017), the Jakarta Declaration is a milestone text addressing other major challenges besides journalists’ safety, namely fake news and Internet issues.

On internet issues, the Declaration calls on Members States to take steps to enable the free flow of government information to the public, refrain from internet shutdowns and other measures that unduly limit freedom of expression and access to information online, such as disproportionate filtering or blocking techniques.

To tackle the rise of fake news, the Declaration encourages UNESCO to promote public discussion to find alternatives to counter the proliferation of falsified content and the phenomenon of “social media bubbles”. It invites media to play a role in tackling fake news by ensuring that reporting is based on verifiable information, and by promoting media and information literacy initiatives.

Drawing from Indonesia’s laws, the Declaration proposes that other UNESCO Member States consider making it a criminal offence to willfully interfere with the legitimate exercise of media freedom.

The Declaration underlines “the importance, for democratic civic and political life, of high-quality public-interest journalism, including investigative journalism, respecting professional and ethical standards and enjoying protection of confidentiality of sources, and recogniz[es]  that such journalism represents a public good for all members of society”.

The Declaration was elaborated in close consultation with UNESCO by a drafting committee composed of six media experts, representing all regions: Bambang Harymurti, Editor-in-chief of leading Indonesian news weekly Tempo; Gwen Lister, Executive Chairperson, Namibia Media Trust; Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy; Jonathan Bock, Coordinator at Center of Studies on Press Freedom (FLIP); Constance Bommelaer, Senior Director of Global Internet Policy at The Internet Society; and Rana Sabbagh, Executive Director at Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ).

A draft version was made available online on 28 April for comments by the public. The final version, reflecting the feedback received, was adopted by acclamation at the end of the WPFD conference on 4 May.  

The 2017 edition of WPFD attracted unprecedented levels of attendance, with media experts, practitioners, civil society representatives, government members, students and academics from more than 90 countries, taking part in the event. Thirty partner organizations were officially associated with the event, which focused on media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

To view previous WPFD declarations, see:

  • Finlandia Declaration (2016): Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This is Your Right! 
  • Riga Declaration (2015): Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Media Safety in the Digital Age