Guarding the Guardians? The evolving role of the international human rights system in protecting journalists and the media

This paper addresses international responses to some of the most pressing global threats to the exercise of freedom of expression in the digital age: attacks on individual journalists and upon the media as an institution. Against the backdrop of heightened levels of violence and online harassment of journalists, as well as the public vilification of the media by populist leaders across the world, this paper critically examines the recent approaches of UN Charter-based human rights bodies, notably the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures mechanisms, to such physical and rhetorical attacks. It traces the evolution and takes stock of the significance of relevant Human Rights Council resolutions, particularly those dedicated to the “safety of journalists” which have been adopted since 2012, as well as the responses of relevant Special Rapporteurs to specific individual cases, including that of Jamal Khashoggi which has gained worldwide attention.