Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Rory Peck Trust call for protection of refugee journalists
In December 2011, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Rory Peck Trust met with representatives of the Kenya office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Since, the three organizations have been working to defend the community of Somali journalists who have taken refuge in Kenya.
On 12 May 2014, the organizations sent an open letter to Joseph Ole Lenku, the Kenyan interior minister, expressing concern over the condition of refugee journalists in Kenya following the government’s decision to transfer all urban refugees to “designated” residence zones.
Faced with the vulnerability of information providers in exile, and in taking into account the inadequacy of international protective mechanisms, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Rory Peck Trust published a list of recommendations to the international community. On the occasion of World Refugee Day, 20 June, the three organizations call on UNHCR, on Unesco, on governments of countries of first refuge for journalists fleeing their countries, on governments of Western states that grant them refugee status, and on the European Commission.
Since 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Rory Peck Trust, and Reporters Without Borders have worked together to jointly support and advocate on behalf of refugee journalists worldwide. Every year, our organizations support dozens of journalists, a large number of whom are freelancers, who have been forced to flee their homes for fear of violent retaliation or imprisonment for their work.
According to CPJ research, the top five countries journalists fled from over the past five years are Iran, Somalia, Syria, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. The journalists most often went to Kenya, Turkey and Uganda. France and the United States have accepted the highest numbers of refugee journalists during that same time period, CPJ research shows.
Though their individual plights are akin to those of other refugees, CPJ, the Rory Peck Trust, and RSF have found that journalists’ high profiles make them more vulnerable to continued persecution in exile. We believe that the forced exile of journalists and media workers is a form of aggression against our universal rights to freedom of expression and information. With this in mind, CPJ, the Rory Peck Trust, and RSF make the following recommendations:
To the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- Continue to actively engage with civil society in the protection of refugee journalists, and continue to work directly with freedom of expression and press freedom organizations to make sure that cases of refugee journalists are identified more quickly and that the specific challenges they face are addressed.
- Ensure that refugee journalists receive better access to appropriate individual protection, to urban refugee programs, the resettlement process, and the UN’s mechanism for temporary evacuation to a safe third country.
- Reinforce its collaboration with other UN agencies in regards to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity by providing detailed information on refugee journalists and their conditions in host countries.
To the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Organization (UNESCO)
- As the UN agency with a freedom of expression mandate, UNESCO must ensure that UN member states provide refugee journalists with appropriate protection.
- Make sure the issue of refugee journalists is included in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
- Report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of the Universal Periodic Review process on the status of exiled journalists in terms of the reasons why they are forced to flee and the treatment they receive in host countries.
To countries of first refuge, notably Kenya, Turkey, and Uganda
- Provide protection to refugee journalists seeking refuge in their territory from harassment and violence at the hands of security personnel from their home country.
- Enable refugee journalists to establish themselves outside of refugee camps. Often based near borders, refugee camps are easily accessible toagents of the governments journalists are fleeing, and are therefore extremely dangerous to journalists with high profile in their home countries and communities.
- Fully and transparently investigate attacks against refugee journalists living in their territory, including those allegedly committed by local authorities.
- Allow refugee journalists seeking to continue working in exile the possibility of obtaining work permits that could enable them to be self-sufficient, while promoting freedom of expression in their country and region.
To resettlement and asylum countries, notably the United States and European Union state members
- Increase UN resettlement quotas and ensure faster processing of refugee journalists’ cases.
- Facilitate the filing of humanitarian visa applications by journalists forced into exile before their consular sections.
- Enable refugee journalists to file asylum claims at their embassies in countries of first refuge, and guarantee the quick delivery of entry permits in case of positive response.
To the European Commission
- Promote the establishment of an asylum-claim filing procedure in EU state members’ local embassies.
- Guarantee the full implementation of the EU Guidelines on freedom of expression and the EU Guidelines on human rights defenders by EU state members.