JAKARTA, Indonesia— The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced a proposal to have a Regional Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in the ASEAN Human Rights Council.
Speaking in a pre-event leading to the May 3 World Press Freedom Day commemoration in Jakarta, UNESCO Assistant Director General Frank La Rue said the proposals will hopefully enhance the commitment of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members to freedom of expression and of the press in the region.
Journalists “cannot function if there is harassment…or if there is intimidation or fear,” he said.
He added that states should ensure the safety of journalists so that they can continue to inform society, which he said, is a very important function in the world today.
“There has to be a guarantee by states of the freedom required to be a journalist in terms of access to public information, to practice the profession, to maintain the confidentiality of sources, to exercise the same rights offline and online. But parallel to that, the safety of journalists should be guaranteed,” he said.
He also underscored the importance of having any act of violence investigated “completely and fully.”
“We believe that it’s very important that the Philippines respond to these communications on the allegations we (in UNESCO) are receiving—allegations of harassment and violence.”
The former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression said he would want to visit the Philippines as soon as possible to have a dialogue with civil society and government authorities on how to enhance safety and guarantee freedom of the press in the country.