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High Level 2022 Vienna Conference on the Safety of Journalists

AUSTRIA, November 3 - On 3 and 4 November 2022, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists, the Austrian Foreign Ministry – along with the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – invited guests to the Vienna Conference on the Safety of Journalists. The conference, titled “Safety of Journalists: Protecting media to protect democracy”, included more than 400 participants representing governments, international organisations, media, and civil society. Media Minister Susanne Raab, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights opened the high-calibre conference. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, who was unable to attend due to health reasons, gave a statement in advance of the conference, affirming the great importance of independent journalism:

Today’s Vienna Conference is an occasion to show our respect for journalists, who risk their freedom and even their life on a daily basis in the service of independent reporting in the most difficult of circumstances.

Despite international efforts, immunity for crimes against journalists is widespread; nine out of ten murders of journalists go unpunished. In order to improve the situation for these media representatives, the participating states, international organisations, and representatives of civil society made numerous concrete agreements during a “Pledging Session” to help strengthen freedom of the press and to protect journalists. Media Minister Raab presented Austria’s pledges on behalf of Foreign Minister Schallenberg, including an investment of 150,000 euros in women-led media initiatives on women’s rights in Afghanistan. Austria is also supporting Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) for journalists in crisis and conflict situations. The training is primarily intended to prepare journalists to work in especially dangerous conditions. To strengthen democracy, the Austrian Development Cooperation is also increasing its contribution to promote media development.

In addition, Austria initiated a political declaration in the framework of the Vienna Conference, which more than 50 countries have already ratified. Among other things, the signatories agreed to counteract the increasing threats to the safety of journalists, freedom of the press, and media pluralism in the digital age. They also pledged to fight new threats in the areas of law and business, and to increase their focus on the particular risks that women in journalism face in the course of their work.

Finally, all the participants explicitly agreed to collaborate closely to help raise awareness about the UN Action Plan, which includes concrete measures on the safety of journalists and the problem of immunity, and to improve the plan’s implementation. In his closing speech, Secretary-General Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal talked about the future of the UN Action Plan.

This conference has given us the momentum we need to move into the second decade of the UN Action Plan. Compared to 2012, we have reached a very promising point – there are now structures and worldwide coalitions that connect interest groups. At the same time, we know the challenges have not gotten any better, so it is essential to keep working to implement the UN Action Plan,

concluded Secretary-General Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal.