Providing peer-support to civil society utilising the UN special procedures on cases of attacks against journalists

Interview with Callum Birch, UN Advocacy Officer at ARTICLE 19

What is the mission of the organisation you are working for?

ARTICLE 19 works for a world where all people everywhere can freely express themselves and actively engage in public life without fear of discrimination. We advocate for the protection of journalists, and ending impunity for attacks against them, as a fundamental priority for safeguarding the right to freedom of expression worldwide. Our work includes advocacy within the various mechanisms of the UN.

What are you doing with the grant awarded by the Global Media Defence Fund?

The UN Special Procedures – who go by the names of Special Rapporteurs, Working Groups or Independent Experts – are human rights experts mandated to investigate and report on specific human rights issues, either country-specific or thematic, and provide authoritative recommendations to governments. Through the Global Media Defence Fund, ARTICLE 19 has developed a project to build the capacity of civil society organisations, particularly those committed to promoting media freedom, to effectively and strategically utilise the UN Special Procedures’ communications mechanism to encourage these experts to intervene in cases of violence against journalists, with a particular focus on women. We will do this through various means, including by developing a guidance package, organising dynamic webinars, and undertaking peer-to-peer support to partners on the submission of communications.

What will be the impact of this action?

The UN Special Procedures’ communications mechanism is an effective and powerful way to raise awareness and prompt action on emblematic cases of violence against journalists or broader trends undermining media freedom. Where the Special Procedures intervene, this can exert influential pressure on government officials to provide remedy on specific cases or reform laws. Ultimately, we hope the project will promote the alignment of national legislation, policies and protection mechanisms to international human rights standards.

While we will offer direct peer-to-peer support to seven civil society organisations, we will support potentially hundreds of other journalists and media professionals through our webinars and the dissemination of project materials. The capacity building element of the project will ensure that our project has long-term, sustainable impact.