Secretary Leila M. De Lima, together with Deputy Executive Secretary Teofilo S. Pilando, Jr., led the Philippine delegation to the 3rd United Nations Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which took place today at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
The working meeting systematically brought together the UN family of agencies, Member States, international and regional organizations, academe and media practitioners, to address the threats against the safety of journalists, media workers, and social media producers, and of the culture of impunity surrounding the crimes against them. The discussions centered on the crucial necessity of transforming U.N. resolutions and papers, including the U.N. Plan of Action, into prompt, effective and responsive national level strategies by the UN Member-States.
Secretary De Lima recommended the inclusion of people-driven grassroots advocacy into the U.N. Plan. of Action in order to provide the basic source of support from the field to the highest echelons of Member-States. Speaking directly on the political, psychological and moral outrage evoked in every killing of journalist, the Secretary stressed on the urgency and indispensability of educating the public on the protection of journalists.
Secretary De Lima, in her remarks to the plenary session today, underscored the protection of journalists as a clear juncture in eradicating the culture of impunity in the country. Acknowledging that the government bears the primary responsibility to ensure the effective protection of our journalists, the Secretary stressed that the viciousness of these crimes committed against journalists demand a coordinated response from the government and the private sector.
The Secretary shared the composite team approach, adopted by the Inter-Agency Committee under Administrative Order No. 35 (A.O. 35), which she currently chairs. The A.O. 35 Inter-Agency Committee is the primordial body tasked to investigate all cases of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security, including media killings, both by state and non-state forces and to ensure a focused case build-up and speedy resolution of all unsolved and new cases.
A.O. 35 adopts the "composite team approach" whereby prosecutors and investigators collaborate, cooperate and coordinate in the investigation and build-up of validated cases of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and property. This means a more pre-positioned personnel to respond quickly to these cases. The Secretary assured the UN agencies that the government is harnessing the' tools under the A.O. 35 to translate the normative principles under the U.N. Plan of Action into the country level.
In addition to her participation as one of the panel members in the plenary sessions, the Secretary has also engaged in a program of bilateral meetings with officials from UNESCO, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Council of Europe, to discuss the possibility of greater, meaningful collaborations within the Southeast Asian region.
Building on the strengths of the different agencies to foster synergies and to avoid duplication, the Secretary vowed to continue to collaborate with the security forces, the academe and non-governmental organizations, to establish a standing effort that will harness the tools to ensure the safety of journalists and to effectively bring those responsible for the killings of journalists to justice, through a more human rights-based, context-sensitive and multi-disciplinary approach.