Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) press statement from 22 January 2014 – As the Syria peace conference opens in Geneva, international media assistance NGOs call on the stakeholders of the conflict and conference participants to ensure that steps are taken to safeguard media freedom in Syria and to include the development of a free and independent media sector in Syria as an important element of political settlement to the conflict.
To Geneva II conference stakeholders,
International efforts aimed at creating a process towards a political solution to the Syrian conflict must include protection of media freedom and development of a free and independent media sector, living up to professional ethical standards, as fundamental cornerstones in any viable political settlement.
Currently, journalists, media activists and other news providers are directly and deliberately being targeted by multiple parties to the conflict and Syria is currently the world’s most dangerous country for people engaged in media work. As a result, access to reliable information for the Syrian population has been severely constrained.
Press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information are inalienable and universal human rights, guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant in Civil and Political Rights. Not only must the gross and persistent violations in Syria of these universal rights be condemned and stopped. Press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information must also be integral elements of any political agreement on a transition process in Syria. Developing a free and independent media sector, adhering to professional ethical standards, is dependent on, and essential to, the safeguarding of these rights in Syria. International transitional efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis should therefore secure that media development, basic media and free expression rights are recognized and integrated in the process from the very outset.
We, the undersigned organizations as members of Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and other international media assistance groups, therefore call on all Syrian and international parties engaged in political and transitional talks and processes:
– to demand an immediate release of all journalists and others engaged in media work detained by the regime, ISIS or any other group in violation of their right to freedom of expression.
– to secure an immediate halt to the intimidation, crimes and abuses to foreign and Syrian journalists, media workers, media activists or media organizations, by any group, in any context, and under any pretext.
– to place observance of press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information at the heart of political talks and transitional efforts.
– to assure that the future development of a free, strong and independent media sector are integral to any transitional efforts and political talks.
Canal France International (CFI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Deutsche Welle Akademie, Doha center for Media Freedom, Freedom House, Free Press Unlimited , Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), HIVOS, International federation of Journalists (IFJ), Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), International Media Support (IMS), Internews, IREX US, Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), The Rory Peck Trust, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers WAN-IFRA.