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Draft Accra Declaration: World Press Freedom Day 2018 “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law”

botchway May 6, 2018


  1. We, the participants at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day International Conference, held in Accra,
    Ghana, 2-3 May 2018,
    1. Recalling Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the
    right to freedom of opinion and expression; this includes freedom to hold opinions without
    interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
    regardless of frontiers”;
  2. 2. Noting that the preamble to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa
    reaffirms the “fundamental importance of freedom of expression as an individual human right, as
    a cornerstone of democracy and as a means of ensuring respect for all human rights and
    3. Recognising that freedom of expression, including media freedom, is a fundamental underpinning
    for the successful operation of all democratic mechanisms which keep power in check and hold it
    to account;
    4. Emphasising States’ obligations to create an enabling legal and policy environment so as to foster
    an independent and diverse media sector and to promote respect for freedom of expression;
    5. Aware that respect for freedom of expression depends on the rule of law and, in turn, an
    independent judiciary which is aware of and upholds international, constitutional and regional
    standards governing human rights and freedom of expression;
    6. Acknowledging that the many challenges facing the justice system have contributed to impunity
    for crimes against journalists and media workers and the resulting need for judicial reform;
    7. Noting with concern the global backsliding in terms of respect for freedom of expression, media
    diversity, journalistic safety and independence, and the lack of progress in terms of gender
    equality in and through media, as highlighted in UNESCO’s report on World Trends in Freedom of
    Expression and Media Development;
    8. Recalling that in 2019 the United Nations (UN) will review progress on Sustainable Development
    Goal (SDG) 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, including target 16.10 on “public access
    to information and fundamental freedoms” and its indicators on safety of journalists and
    guarantees of the right to information;
    9. Reaffirming the importance of highlighting these issues, including on 3 May, World Press Freedom
    Day; on 28 September, International Day for Universal Access to Information; and on 2 November,
    International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists;
    10. Acknowledging that most States still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in and
    through the media;
    11. Highlighting the threat posed to the free flow of information and ideas in society, as guaranteed
    by international law, by the proliferation of falsified information and the growing phenomenon of
    information silos or “social media bubbles”;
    12. Concerned about the impact on freedom of expression of disproportionate regulatory responses
    regarding the Internet;
  3. 13. Disturbed by the growing number of intentional disruptions of networks and platforms;
    14. Convinced that professional, independent journalism, based on independently verifiable facts,
    and in particular investigative journalism, play an essential role in terms of holding the
    government and other powerful actors to account, keeping the public informed, exposing
    wrongdoing, creating spaces for healthy public debate and enabling public participation in
    15. Stressing the increasing economic difficulties facing media outlets, especially those that are
    committed to professional and investigative journalism, and the obligation on States to take
    measures to mitigate this challenge, which respecting media and editorial independence;
    16. Emphasising that media freedom and independence cannot exist where journalists live in poverty
    and fear;
    17. Welcoming the growing number of States which have adopted laws giving effect to the right to
    access information held by public authorities (right to information), while also calling on all States
    which have not yet done so to adopt such laws and on all States to ensure proper implementation
    of those laws;
    18. Mindful of the particular difficulties of protecting, in the digital era, confidential journalistic
    sources, which is a pre-requisite for independent journalism;
    19. Alarmed at the proliferation of laws restricting freedom of expression in the name of protecting
    national security and combating extremism and terrorism which fail to respect relevant
    international standards;
    20. Concerned that journalists in many countries are denied their rights freely to join or form
    organisations to defend themselves and/or protect their rights;
    21. Deploring the fact that the rate of attacks on journalists remains unacceptably high and that the
    rate of impunity for these crimes also remains unacceptably high;
    22. Honouring the journalists and media workers who contribute to media freedom through their
    work and commitment, often at the risk of their safety and personal security;
    We therefore:
    Call on each UNESCO Member State to:
    23. Create or reinforce an enabling legal and policy framework to ensure respect for freedom of
    expression and to foster a diverse, independent media sector, and to ensure that relevant officials
    are properly trained so as to ensure respect for that framework in practice;
    24. Enhance the capacity of administration of justice actors – including the police, prosecutors and
    judges – both to respect freedom of expression themselves and to ensure that those responsible
    for threats or attacks against journalists, media outlets and others for exercising their right to
    freedom of expression are brought to justice and otherwise to address cases that raise freedom
    of expression issues;
  4. 25. Adopt strong and appropriate anti-discrimination rules, including in relation to gender, with a
    view, among other things, to ensuring that everyone in society can enjoy equally the right to
    freedom of expression;
    26. Align their rules on the right to information with international standards, where necessary by
    adopting or amending right to information legislation, ensure that these rules are implemented
    properly, and monitor progress on achieving indicator SDG 16.10.2;
    27. Put in place, where warranted by the situation, dedicated national safety mechanisms to: monitor
    progress on SDG indicator 16.10.1 on safety of journalists and respond to annual requests by the
    UNESCO Director General for information on impunity; provide protection for journalists and
    others who are attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression; and combat impunity
    when such attacks do occur;
    28. Review, as necessary, restrictions on freedom of expression which purport to protect national
    security or to support the fight against terrorism so as to ensure that they fully respect
    international freedom of expression standards;
    29. Respect judicial decisions of regional human rights courts, including on freedom of expression
    30. Recognise in law the right of journalists to protect the secrecy of their confidential sources of
    information and ensure that such protection extends to cover digital surveillance and other
    techniques through which sources might be exposed;
    31. Protect digital intermediaries against liability for illegal third party content unless they specifically
    intervene in or promote that content or refuse to obey an order adopted by an independent
    oversight body to remove it;
    32. Abstain from delegating, legally or through political pressure, the regulation of online content to
    platforms (privatising censorship);
    33. Refrain from adopting laws which create broad offences or impose special penalties simply
    because activities are committed online, and limit the scope of any cybercrime laws to activities
    which may legitimately be restricted under international law and which are not already covered
    by existing laws;
    34. Avoid adopting regulatory responses to the problems of disinformation and misinformation which
    are broadly worded, fail to respect international standards of necessity, proportionality and
    legitimate purpose, and/or which risk infringing on freedom of expression;
    35. Develop a framework for the protection of communications systems against cyber attacks and for
    providing protection as needed to those whose face a risk of cyber attack in retaliation for
    exercising their right to freedom of expression;
    36. Avoid imposing Internet or other general communications shutdowns, or other measures that
    unduly limit the digital exchange of information, including via filtering or blocking techniques;
    37. Foster media and information literacy among the general public, with a particular focus on the
    youth, in various ways, including by incorporating it into the school curriculum;
    38. Respect, through law and practice, judicial independence and the rule of law, including where
    judges interpret international or constitutional human rights guarantees in a way that overrides
    national legislation;
    39. Promote media diversity, including by preventing excessive concentration of media ownership,
    by requiring media outlets to be transparent about their ownership, by fostering a three tier
    broadcasting system comprising public service, commercial and community broadcasters, by
    promoting fair representation in the media of different groups in society and by converting, where
    they exist, government or State broadcasters into public service broadcasters;
    40. Recognise, in law and in practice, the right to freedom of association for media workers;
    41. Encourage and support artists and other creative thinkers including so that they are able to use
    digital communications tools and online platforms to create robust business models for
    disseminating their work and connecting with their audiences;
    42. Consider putting in place measures to create a more robust economic environment for quality
    journalism, investigative journalism and independent, professional media;
    43. Promote universal access to the Internet at affordable prices, including through the establishment
    of free public access points in both urban and rural areas;
    Call on UNESCO to:
    44. Provide leadership on the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity,
    and strengthen networks of focal points within the UN system and within Member States where
    45. Continue to support efforts to monitor and promote safety of journalists, including through
    capacity building of administration of justice actors and through assisting with the establishment
    and operation of national safety mechanisms;
    46. Strengthen the Journalism Safety Research Network so that it reaches a wider range of relevant
    institutions and researchers;
    47. Continue to monitor the implementation by States of indicators on the safety of journalists and
    access to information under SDG 16.10;
    48. Support, where they do not already exist, official regional bodies and mechanisms that work to
    promote and protect the right to freedom of expression;
    49. Share good practices on the media’s role in elections, including by supporting the work of the
    Inter-Agency Coordination Mechanism for UN Electoral Assistance (ICMEA);
    50. Support further training of judges, judicial officials, administration of justice actors and security
    forces on freedom of expression, including in different regions of the world;
    51. Promote Internet Universality and related indicators for an Internet that is characterised by
    human Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder participation (the ROAM principles);
    52. Provide training and capacity building to journalists in the area of digital safety and security,
    including the use of technologies enabling such benefits as anonymity, encryption and material
    (content) security with a view, among other things, to preventing digital surveillance of their work
    and digital attacks on their devices, and protecting their confidential sources of information;
    53. Foster research and public debate about ways to counter the proliferation of falsified content and
    the phenomenon of “social media bubbles” and work with intermediaries to counter these
    problems and to promote debate and media literacy;
    54. Seek out ways to engage and inspire children and young people to defend democracy, the rule of
    law and fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression;
    55. Further reinforce its Media and Information Literacy programme initiatives;
    56. Support the provision of capacity building for journalists in the area of legal awareness;
    Call on journalists, media outlets, social media practitioners and Internet intermediaries to:
    57. Disseminate verifiable information to the public with a view to monitoring and holding powerful
    public and social actors to account and to exposing illegality and other forms of wrongdoing;
    58. Make a particular effort during elections to ensure that voters are provided with independently
    verifiable information about parties, candidates and issues, and about any efforts to manipulate
    or influence the election, so that they can make informed electoral choices;
    59. Be transparent about their policies and business practices, especially where these lead to the
    dissemination or prioritisation of information which supports a particular political party or point
    of view on a matter of public debate, including by drafting policies in clear and understandable
    terms and by translating them into relevant languages;
    60. Put in place systems for public redress or complaints, based on clear standards or codes of
    conduct, which ensure that complaints are dealt with fairly both procedurally (due process) and
    substantively (decisions are based objectively on the code);
    61. Provide fair payment and working conditions for media workers;
    62. Support, as appropriate, efforts to expose falsified or misleading information, including by
    reporting on it and by putting in place appropriate technical measures to help identify and expose
    63. Provide, as needed, safety equipment and training to staff who are at risk of attack for the
    information they disseminate, including specialised training for women;
    64. Take seriously their own responsibilities to respect human rights, including privacy and freedom
    of expression, especially insofar as they play a role in mediating the expressive activities of their
    users or potentially exposing private information;
    65. Adopt policies and practices to address inequalities based on gender and vulnerable group status
    in both media content and media operations, including by ensuring equitable coverage and voice
    opportunities for these groups and avoiding reporting based on stereotypes or prejudice;
    Call on civil society, academia and the technical community to:
    66. Advocate for reform of the legal and policy framework, as needed, to bring it into line with
    international standards regarding freedom of expression, especially in relation to laws affecting
    the dissemination of information via digital communications tools;
    67. Support monitoring efforts in the area of safety of journalists with a view to ensuring that rapid
    and accurate information about threats, risks and attacks is provided to the relevant authorities
    so that protection and impunity measures can be delivered quickly and effectively when needed,
    and that official actors are held to account for any failures in this regard;
    68. Collaborate with other stakeholders to support media and information literacy programmes and
    69. Research technical and other solutions to the problems regarding the free flow of information
    and ideas in society that have been created or exacerbated by digital communications
    70. Work with online platforms and other intermediaries to improve their respect for human rights;
    71. Denounce attacks on freedom of expression and media freedom in whatever form they take and
    whoever perpetrates them, whether public authorities, political actors, Internet intermediaries,
    or other actors.


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