Advocacy letter

Joint Letter: Safety of Journalists Coalition Members Urge UN Action to Protect Journalists

Members of the International Civil Society Organization Safety of Journalists Coalition thank Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists for productive meeting and recommend steps to improve the global response to violence against journalists and other attacks on press freedom.

To the chairs of the Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists,

The undersigned members of the International Civil Society Organization Safety of Journalists Coalition (SoJ Coalition) write to thank you for organizing a productive exchange during the first ever multi-stakeholder coordination meeting that took place between all chairs of the Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists, UNESCO, OHCHR and other integral members of the international press freedom community held on 12 October 2020, in which several members of the SoJ Coalition participated.

We appreciated the opportunity to be appraised of the activities and priorities of the respective groups, as well as to identify common issues of concern and areas for potential follow-up action. We especially note the interest in working more closely with civil society on the critical challenge of ensuring the safety of journalists and an end to impunity for attacks against them, and encourage the Groups of Friends to ensure that their work on this issue serves to reinforce the efforts of our organisations.

As press freedom remains under siege globally and the threats highlighted in our previous statement continue to endanger a free and independent media, we would like to make a number of recommendations that would demonstrate that the Member States that comprise the Groups of Friends are committed to taking concrete actions to improve the global response to violence against journalists and other attacks on press freedom. 

In particular, the SoJ Coalition would like to highlight the importance of the following:

  1. As Members of the Groups of Friends, commit resources and political support to enable the prompt realisation of the rapid response task force within the UN Special Procedures system of the Human Rights Council as a concrete action to reduce the global level of impunity for crimes against journalists;
  2. Commit to closing the so-called “implementation gap” for UN standards on the protection of journalists through structural diplomacy and pressure on Member States that fail to comprehensively implement, monitor, and report on the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. 

While we urge the prioritisation of these actions, other recommendations that were raised during the meeting would further enhance the UN and State response. These include: 

  • Joint public statements, such as those issued for COVID-19 and the International Day to End Impunity 2020;
  • Continue to effectively coordinate and actively consult with civil society on the drafting of UN resolutions;
  • Reinforce the issue of SoJ in other thematic resolutions when relevant (for example on privacy, freedom of expression, violence against women, right to peaceful assembly, Human Rights Defenders, security sector reform, etc);
  • Reinforce the issue of SoJ in country resolutions;
  • Provide inputs to the implementation reports requested through UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions;
  • Coordinate to ensure recommendations on SoJ through the Universal Periodic Reviews;
  • Ensure active updates on SoJ are included in Sustainable Development Goal Voluntary National Reviews to lead by example;
  • Provide inputs to reports of the UN Special Procedures when relevant to the issue;
  • Provide inputs to Human Rights Committee processes, such as General Comments, when relevant, and include inputs when reviewed under any other relevant treaty body;
  • Strengthen coordination with other International Governmental Organisations, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Council of Europe.

As a year of unprecedented attacks on the media comes to an end and we enter into another year likely to be equally fraught with challenges, the SoJ Coalition again stresses the urgency of a dedicated and coordinated response among all those committed to championing a free and independent press.

We encourage you to work with our organisations to realize the above recommendations, and to this end, request a written response confirming your commitment and outlining the steps you intend to take. We look forward to using the opportunity of the next coordination meeting announced for March 2021 to review progress in this regard. 


ACOS Alliance
Committee to Protect Journalists
Free Press Unlimited
Freedom House
Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP)
Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
International Federation of Journalists
International Media Support
International Women’s Media Foundation
International Press Institute
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)
PEN America
Rory Peck Trust
Samir Kassir Foundation - SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom
World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)