On the day when the UN report regarding the existence of “credible evidence” of the involvement of Saudi high-level officials—including Crown Prince Bin Salman—in Khashoggi’s murder was released, UN Secretary-General António Guterres attended the traditional United Nations Correspondents Association Directory Launch Reception. On that occasion, he delivered a speech in which he described journalism in general and the day-to-day commitment of covering the UN, as “a service to the cause of freedom”.
Introduced by the UNCA President Valeria Robecco, who paid tribute to reporters around the world killed on the job, imprisoned or threatened for their work, after expressing congratulations on the 71st anniversary of the association, Mr. Guterres pointed out the importance of free and independent journalism. “We are living in a difficult period,” Mr. Guterres said, “in relation to the exercise of your profession. We have seen, in many parts of the world, the national sovereignty agenda gaining ground against the human rights agenda, which in itself is a paradox because one of the elements of national sovereignty would be exactly to value human rights” as “an element of sovereignty,” the SG underlined. And within the major restriction of the civil society’s space that we are witnessing, he continued, one of the most worrying trends “is related to the freedom of the press and to the prosecution of journalists.”
“In my past profession, when I was High Commissioner for Refugees, I always used to say that the two most dangerous professions in the world were to be either a humanitarian worker or a journalist,” Mr. Guterres explained. He went on to declare that it is particularly dramatic “when we see journalists that are arrested, tortured and killed because they want to exercise their profession, which is a service to the public in general and to the world.” And that persecution comes not only from armed and terrorist groups, but also from the States themselves. That’s why, according to Guterres, “the battle for the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression is a fundamental battle for us all, and the protection of journalists victims of the violation of that freedom is a very important job, a very important task for the UN and its different areas, including my own area and my own capacity.”