The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council today affirmed for the first time the importance of journalist safety as a fundamental element of freedom of expression, the International Press Institute (IPI) announced.

The 47-member body passed by consensus a resolution sponsored by the Republic of Austria that called on states to “promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently” and to fight impunity by ensuring “impartial, speedy and effective investigations” into acts of violence against journalists.

Austria has championed press freedom since its election to the Council in 2011. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger explained last month, “There is currently a protection gap. Austria is working together with civil society on specific measures to improve the protection of journalists. The focus of [this] initiative . . . will be the struggle against impunity and the prevention of future attacks.”

“We are very pleased that the UN Human Rights Council has highlighted the impact of journalist safety on the right of citizens in all countries to be informed,” IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said. “We urge UN member states to implement the terms of the resolution, and thereby put an end to the global scourge of impunity for crimes committed against journalists”

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