Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
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Human Rights Council - 19th Regular Session

Item 3 Australian statement

Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights

defenders

5 March 2012


Australia thanks the Special Rapporteur for her report and continuing commitment to the situation of human rights defenders worldwide. We reaffirm our strong commitment to guaranteeing the rights of human rights defenders. These committed actors face extraordinary risks and challenges - including risking their own lives - in seeking to shed light on human rights violations.

Australia is seized of the concerns raised in the Special Rapporteur’s report. We note the particular risks faced by journalists and other media workers, whose unique insight and access are crucial to the defence of human rights. Australia has welcomed the vital reporting role played by journalists covering the grave situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s continued attention to this crisis.

Human rights defenders’ presence and monitoring of events can also result in human rights violations being averted and can ensure better respect for the rule of law. In the case of demonstrations and protests, defenders and journalists play an essential role accounting for the conduct of both law enforcement officials and protestors.

States have an obligation to ensure media workers’ unhindered access to public assemblies and to ensure their ability to independently cover such events. Removing restrictions on press freedoms helps defend against censorship and guarantee the freedoms of opinion and expression. Tackling human rights violations committed against media workers is essential for their safety. Australia remains gravely concerned at reports of journalists who have been subject to killings, attacks, disappearances, abductions, torture and ill-treatment.
 

Guarantees of human rights and protection are not limited to those officially recognised as media workers. Bloggers, community media workers, youth and student defenders, for example, play a vital role in the defence of human rights by monitoring human rights developments, violations and demonstrations. Australia recognises the important role and unique challenges facing women defenders, as highlighted in the Special Rapporteur’s report.

We would be interested in the Special Rapporteur’s views on how relevant protections can be effectively extended to other non-official and community human rights defenders.