Welcoming Christiane Amanpour, New Goodwill Ambassador and Voice for Press Freedom

Seeking to heighten its work advancing human rights, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has appointed internationally recognized CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour as a new Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety.

UNESCO  Director-General Irina Bokova and US Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom participated in the inauguration ceremony in Paris last Wednesday.  "The simple fact is that journalists cannot do their jobs if they are threatened or under attack," Deputy Secretary Higginbottom stated during the ceremony. "UNESCO's mandate includes preserving and promoting freedom of expression and of the media, and this appointment is taking a critical step in advancing those freedoms."

I first met Christiane Amanpour in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, during my prior government service at the State Department.  As always, she was on the front lines of tragedy, reporting on the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims.  Her work and fearless dedication to bringing us the news -- from war zones, disaster sites, and besieged or forgotten places -- has been inspiring, and I was thrilled to reach out to her about amplifying UNESCO's work as a Goodwill Ambassador.

As a former New York Times reporter myself, the issues of free expression and journalist safety are dear. The January 2015 attack against the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo brought the threats to journalist safety physically close to home but as UNESCO statistics demonstrate, the problem is global: more than 600 journalists have been killed in the past ten years; hundreds more have been illegally arrested or tortured -- simply for doing their jobs.  More than 90% of these attacks go unpunished.

As a new Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Amanpour will help draw attention to the fundamental role a free press plays in building and maintaining a democracy, the physical threats to journalists around the world, and the need to end impunity for the perpetrators of such attacks.

Her timely induction came days before UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day celebration in Riga, Latvia.  It also coincided with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's meeting of his Chief Executives Board at UNESCO Headquarters. The UN leadership endorsed in 2012 the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity with UNESCO as the lead agency.

In the lead-up to World Press Freedom Day, my colleagues in the Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor launched the fourth annual #FreethePress campaign, highlighting reporters and media outlets under assault around the world.

One of the profiled journalists is Mazen Darwish, president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE), who has been detained since 2012. Darwish will be awarded, in absentia, the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize at World Press Freedom Day celebration in Riga. The annual prize honors a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom.

I echo the calls of National Security Advisor Susan Rice and  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, in urging the immediate release of Darwish and his fellow journalists. As UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has said, "Journalists must be able to keep the public informed without fearing for their lives...a free and independent press is essential for democracy and the rule of law."

UNESCO is unique in the UN system because of its mandate to promote "the free flow of ideas by word and image."  It does this through capacity building of journalists to improve their craft; training of security forces on how and why to respect journalists; offering policy advice  to governments on how to incorporate media freedom into their legal frameworks,  raising the profile of journalists in peril and advocating for an end to impunity.

Most recently, at our UNESCO Executive Board meeting, more than 30 member states including the U.S. government, co-sponsored a resolution advocating for greater protections for freedom of expression and journalist safety.

UNESCO also has a unique human rights body, the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations, on which the United States serves. The committee reviews cases of alleged human rights abuses -- many involving journalists -- and uses soft power diplomacy, often including requests for clemency and other relief, with government representatives who appear before us.

But as the growing threats to press freedom indicate, we need to do more. I look forward to working with Christiane Amanpour to keep the plight of murdered, imprisoned and censored journalists  on the global agenda. As she said during her induction remarks, "Journalists are the champions of the people without a voice." UNESCO's newest Goodwill Ambassador will be just that.

About the Author: Crystal Nix-Hines serves as Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the United States to the United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France. For more from the Ambassador follow the U.S. Mission to UNESCO @USUNESCO on Twitter.

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wondimagegn M.
May 4, 2015
To be honest ,i don why? But,When am trying to think about her.There is no words..!!to explain my deeper feeling. But,what can only say is.she is one of who can do the most right things and truthfull coverage in all over the world. She knows what is public interest before them. Always ,she did what she have to do.fore me its d/t to me to find such kind of journalist..!!
Paul M.
Pennsylvania, USA
May 4, 2015
i support this action, and thanks.
Jaleh L.
May 4, 2015
Congratulations to this extraordinary personality. Very deservedly she earns this obliging nomination. The fact to be a relative of dear Christiane, adds to the immense joy that is filling me as I am reading the breaking news. She is a role model for faire, independent and courageous journalism. Best wishes for Christiane Amanpour' s further career and service to civils societies of the world.
Christiane Amanpour Speaks at Ceremony Where She is Names UNESCO Goodwil Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety [UNESCO Photo]
May 3, 2015


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