Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović (l) and Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis, Vilnius, 7 June 2011
Leading media representatives and government officials from around the world are gathering in Vilnius, Lithuania today and tomorrow to discuss the safety and freedom of journalists in the region. The meeting, hosted by the Lithuanian chair-in-office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, is focusing on the “role of governments and civil society in protecting journalists” and highlighting “best practices” among OSCE participating states -- as such official conferences tend to do.
Unfortunately, in some of those states, not only do governments need to protect citizens from reporters, the journalists need protection from government officials themselves as well. Activists are hoping governments will specifically remember the plight of those who face harassment, prison, and even murder by their own governments for performing their journalistic duties.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis kicked off the conference by recalling the dozens of journalists killed or imprisoned in the OSCE countries and explained why protection of the media is so important:
When journalists can act without fear, security in their person and in their profession, they are empowered to bring vital information to the people. They become agents of democracy and freedom. They serve as a watchdog over the institutions of society. They can convey accurately and objectively the actions and attitudes of the power brokers of society. In this way, they are as vital as any other actor or institution in the democratic form of governance.