- Professor Carmen Draghici (Principal Investigator)
Journalists face very specific risks in the course of their professional careers. UNESCO statistics show that 700 journalists have been killed for reporting the news in the past decade. But 90% of cases go unpunished.
Dr Draghici’s extensive research revealed that there are no binding and enforceable laws specifically on journalists’ rights. There are only generic human rights protections for freedom of expression. These do not acknowledge the fact that journalists are routinely exposed to risk when they exercise their right to freedom of expression.
As a result, there is no international law that provides sufficient protection for journalists from harassment or violence, attacks on free speech or challenges to their personal integrity or freedom.
The other challenge surrounded the definition of journalists. Dr Draghici’s work also sought to explain what distinguishes journalists from other individuals who may share news or opinions.
What did we explore and how?
As a result of her research, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) asked Dr Draghici to produce a draft convention on the safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals.
To do this, she explored a number of non-binding legal instruments at regional or UN level to build on existing practices and recommendations in this area. She also had to account for certain limits on journalists’ activity, such as those that allow for restrictions in the interests of national security. Dr Draghici had to find the right balance between journalistic free speech and certain defensible restrictions.
The draft international treaty for the protection of journalists and media professionals that she has produced provides a legal framework specific to the profession and includes its own enforcement mechanism.
Enforcement is another challenge. It has to be palatable to states, while remaining independent of national interests. Her solution is an international committee to monitor compliance.
The IFJ is now leading a campaign to have this convention adopted into international law and build on the consensus in the international community that a new law relating specifically to the protection of media workers is required.
Benefits and influence of this research
This research has been valuable for raising awareness of both the issues journalists and other media professionals face and the lack of international legal support to allow them to do their jobs safely.
The IFJ has been advocating for better rights and protections for journalists for many years. But without something tangible, like the draft convention, it has struggled to gain traction.
Dr Draghici’s work has given the IFJ the tangible document it needs to lobby governments successfully. Since the convention launched in 2018, the IFJ has gained significant support from other media NGOs.
The IFJ and Dr Draghici have also presented the draft convention to the UN. This has led to a number of states expressing an interest in enshrining the convention into law.
If the convention becomes international law, it will have obvious benefits for journalists and other media professionals. It will make their rights more enforceable. It will also help them to understand their rights internationally and how to claim them.
There will be increased pressure on states to refrain from interfering with journalists’ activity, and to prevent third parties from doing so. This will not only make journalists safer, but also make it easier for them to do their jobs.
Another benefit to Dr Draghici’s work is that this convention brings together the regulations relating to the protection of journalists’ rights in one place. This is beneficial for politicians and local law enforcement who may not be familiar with international case law. Having this information in a single treaty will help them to understand a state’s obligations in this area.
Creating a dedicated enforcement body will also mean that offences against journalists are more likely to be punished. It will mean there is greater scrutiny on states, something that’s essential within the international community to encourage compliance.
Getting a convention such as this enshrined into international law takes time, often years. The IFJ plans to continue campaigning for the convention’s adoption.
If it is adopted, it will make a difference to journalists and media professionals around the world.