Media professionals seek to protect press freedom in the face of terrorismManila (Philippines) - Media professionals and non-governmental civil rights organizations meeting in Manila today adopted a resolution declaring that journalists have a right and a duty to investigate and report on terrorism, and that their right to work in safety must be respected.
At the close of the two-day UNESCO conference on Media and Terrorism, some 100 media professionals also stated their concern over the arrest today in Zimbabwe of three journalists, Llody Mudiwa and Collin Chgiwanza of the independent Zimbabwean newspaperThe Daily News, and Andrew Meldrun, correspondent for The Guardian, a British daily.
"We call on the Zimbabwean authorities to drop the charges against these journalists and to refrain from harassing journalists under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act," said the participants.
Their "statement of concern" comes on the eve of World Press Freedom day, whose main event will be held in Manila tomorrow when Geoffroy Nyarota, the founder and editor of The Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper, will be awarded this year's UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
Speaking at the close of the Media and Terrorism conference, Mr Nyarota declared: "Zimbabwe needs all the international help that it can get, especiallyfrom UNESCO and the professional media organizations. The show of solidarity today should send a signal to the authorities in Harare that Zimbabwe cannot operate outside internationally accepted norms."
The Resolution on Terrorism and the Media, adopted by the conference participants, voices concern about "restrictions imposed on the right to freedom of expression and to freedom of information by a growing number of States in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11."
The participants further declare they are "convinced that open public debate and the free flow of information are essential to any long-term solutions to the problems of terrorism."
They resolve, "any strategy to address the threat of terrorism must promote greater respect for freedom of expression and of the media, rather than imposing restrictions on these fundamental rights."
"The media has both a right and a duty to report fully on terrorism in the interest of the public's right to know and to promote open, informed debate about terrorism," the Resolution says.
On the issue of journalists' safety, the participants say: "States at peace as well as all parties to conflict, should take effective measures to ensure that military forces, combatants, as well as secret and intelligence services and other officials engaged in combating terrorism, understand and respect the rights of journalists as civilians under the Geneva Convention and their Additional Protocols, as well as their right to freedom of expression."
Taking part in the Manila conference were journalists from around the world whose daily work exposes them to the dangers of terrorism and violence, as well as representatives of leading international professional organizations and non-governmental civil rights bodies, including Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Journalists, World Press Freedom Committee, the Committee to protect Journalists, Reporters sans Frontières and the World Association of Newspapers.
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