Riachy representing Hariri at Symposium to end impunity for crimes against journalists: To refer their case to Security Council

Under the patronage of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri represented by Caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachy, the UNESCO Regional Beirut Office in cooperation with the Information Ministry organized a symposium entitled "Enhancing Regional Cooperation to End Impunity for Crimes and Attacks against Journalists in the Arab world" at the Coral Beach Hotel in Beirut.

The Symposium coincides with the International Day for Ending Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

The symposium was attended by former MP Ghassan Moukheiber, Director of UNESCO's Beirut Office Hamed Bin Seif Al Hammami, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Sector at UNESCO, Moez Chakchouk, Col. Joseph Mousallem of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, Judge Maroun Zakhour of the Ministry of Justice, National News Agency Director Laure Sleiman Saab, and representatives of the judicial and security corps in Lebanon.

The symposium was also attended by scores of journalists from Lebanon and across the globe.

Opening up the session had been with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by a word by the renowned Media figure, Najat Charafeddine, who pointed out that 1010 journalists have been killed between 2006-2017, that is the average of the death of one journalist every four days.

In his delivered word, Al Hammami underlined that the safety of journalists is one of the priorities of UNESCO, represented by the communications and information sector in particular.

He said this regional symposium in Beirut comes to strengthen cooperation among the effective sides, including the political authorities, national human rights commissions, judicial bodies, civil society organizations, journalists and professional associations throughout the entire region to put an end to impunity for crimes against journalists.

Chakchouk, for his part, thanked the Lebanese authorities for their fruitful cooperation in preparing for this symposium, extending thanks to the Information Ministry for its continuous support for UNESCO activities.

He regrettably pointed out that the list of journalists being killed is long, underscoring the dire need that journalists be able to perform their duties safely and without any fear or intimidation.

Minister Riachy, in turn, thanked the UNESCO Organization for its work to ensure the success of this symposium and to promote the free presence of journalists and media figures in the Arab world.

Riachy underlined the paramount importance of freedom and free speech for the realization of progress in the Arab world, saying the presence of freedom and free speech ensures genuine interaction amongst each other.

The Minister called for raising the level of defending the word and freedom, as well as media and journalists in this world, saying "the use of violence against journalists is akin to the use of chemical weapons against people."

"We must deal with this fact," Riachy corroborated, calling for referring the case of journalists to the Security Council.

Riachy stressed the need to defend journalists and end impunity for crimes or attacks perpetrated against them.

"Media is the court of public opinion," Riachy maintained, saying some fear such a sort of court.

He underscored that free word shall remain a right to all individuals and peoples without exception.

He concluded by saying: "I salute your conference, and I hope that it will come out with useful recommendations for all of us, for Lebanon, for the entire Arab world and for the world."

He also hoped that the Symposium would witness testimonies on the importance of freedom of opinion and defending and preserving this freedom, to build a better society.

The Minister paid tribute to all the fallen press martyrs in the Arab world and in Lebanon in particular.

In the wake of the inaugural session, four panel discussions were held, entitled: "Journalists from Witnesses to Victims in Times of Conflict", "The fight against Impunity in Lebanon: A Review of Achievements and challenges", "Achieving justice in Conflict Zones Now and Tomorrow" and the fourth "Future Course of Action, including Prevention, Awareness and Capacity building."

At the conclusion of the symposium, conferees adopted a series of recommendations, calling for the endorsement of legislations to deter criminal acts against journalists, asking international organizations to organize further conferences to protect journalists and to follow up on previously adopted recommendations, and urging policies within media institutions to protect mediamen.

The symposium also called for according attention to independent journalists who are not protected by press institutions, creating a legal environment in Lebanon that allows the presence of investigative journalism and guarantees the safety of journalists, urging member States to put in place specialized prosecutors to investigate cases of attacks on journalists.

The Symposium recommendations also highlighted the need to adopt all protective and preventive measures for journalists when covering in zones of conflict, and to review exisiting defamation laws that might be used for prosecuting journalists, the matter that can limit the space of freedom and expression.

The recommendations also called on the international community to act to protect Palestinian journalists since "any tampering with the journalist's freedom and his life is deemed a crime."

The symposium also underlined the need to activate the UN action plan for the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

Source: National News Agency