FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017 file photo, the logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seen during the 39th session of the General Conference at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. The United States and Israel have quit the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency, arguing the organization fosters anti-Israel bias. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

International Day to End Impunity for All Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI) 2020 was commemorated on November 2, 2020, under UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Program on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.

The event was held in collaboration with the European Union Delegation in Pakistan, the Embassy of Sweden, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the High Commission of Canada.

At the 68th Session in 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution marking November 2, as the International Day to End Impunity for All Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI). Across the globe more than 1,000 journalists have been killed from 2006 – 2017 while reporting the news and bringing information to the public. This day recognizes the far reaching consequences of impunity, especially of crimes against journalists.

In the context of increasing gender based violence online, this year’s IDEI in Pakistan focused on the challenges faced by the women journalists and media workers. Earlier this year, women journalists, bloggers, media workers and human rights activists issued a statement highlighting the abuse/harassment faced by them on different online platforms.

This statement has brought attention to the growing concerns of women journalists and media workers while performing their duties. According to reports the number of women journalists is already less than five percent, and those in the profession face substantial risks and hurdles. The nature of risks are exacerbated by a rapidly evolving spree of hateful speech, incitement, cyber harassment and violence now occurring online.

Patricia McPhillips, Country Representative and Director, UNESCO welcomed the participants and stressed that, “It is necessary to recognize that if women’s voices are silenced, half of Pakistan is silenced.

Therefore, increasing gender-based violence on online platforms is not a women’s issue alone, or an issue for transgender persons or digital activists, journalists and bloggers alone, but an issue central to protecting democratic values”.

During the event, Ms. Tanzeela Mazhar, a journalist argued that in order to ensure media freedom, women media workers should be protected from coordinated campaigns of abuse and harassment. Digital rights expert, Ms. Nighat Dad, who runs the only cyber harassment helpline in Pakistan, shared her experiences of supporting individuals that reach out via the helpline.

 She further highlighted the gaps in available avenues for legal aid, psychosocial support and capacity building of ordinary citizens in safely experiencing the internet. Mr. Ali Arsalan explained that harassment and abuse occurring in online and offline spaces are resulting in creating huge implications for youth. 

Wendy  Gilmour, High Commissioner of Canada in her concluding remarks emphasized that the role of independent media in a democracy is crucial and it must be protected at all costs. She noted there is growing recognition by the international community of the need to take into account the specific risks women journalists face both offline and online.