WAN-IFRA prioritises a holistic and inclusive view of journalist safety – an approach that includes physical safety, digital security, online abuse, sexual harassment, and health and psychosocial well-being. Safety is consistently highlighted by members and media partners as a major area of concern, despite limited resources to effectively address many of the issues identified.
The Board of WAN-IFRA recognises that all media professionals and media organisations should be equipped with skills and expertise to prepare for potential risks, respond to dangerous situations, and successfully navigate moments of crisis. Current programme funding has permitted WAN-IFRA Media Freedom to train a significant number of journalists and increase capacity inside partner newsrooms across Africa and Asia to engendering and promote a culture of safety in the profession.
However, as the industry takes meaningful strides towards achieving these goals internally, the Board of WAN-IFRA urges governments worldwide to increase funding to this important area of work and to recognise the need to strengthen the overall environment in which journalism is conducted.
The adoption of legislation compliant with regionally and internationally agreed standards on freedom of expression and access to information is critical. Delays in implementing these laws, and a lack of education around the implications of reforms, denies the media fundamental tools essential for their work.
Equally, governments should be urged to step away from laws that ban criticism, criminalise opposition, restrict access to information, or diminish the rights of minorities and groups at risk of discrimination. Such laws make the overall environment significantly unsafe for media professionals to operate.
The conduct of officials during political events and election cycles must also reflect a broader commitment to promoting a positive enabling environment. The number of incidents reported in which journalists are harassed, hurt, or arrested by those tasked with protecting them – politicians, cadres, and supporters; the police, security, and military forces – remains far too high. The Board of WAN-IFRA calls on governments to facilitate better understanding of the role of journalists and how independent media function as a means of significantly improving safety for journalists reporting in the field.
Finally, the Board of WAN-IFRA encourages governments to discourage all forms of online abuse against journalists, and to stop using misinformation and trolling as tools to discredit the media and the profession of journalism.