UN recognizes role of journalists in preventing conflict
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council recognized the role journalists can play in preventing deadly crises in a resolution adopted unanimously Wednesday that condemns escalating attacks on the media and demands that perpetrators face justice.
The resolution expressed concern over growing threat to the safety of media professionals posed by terrorist groups and urged the immediate and unconditional release of all media members kidnapped or taken hostage during conflicts.
The Lithuanian-drafted resolution also “affirms that the work of a free, independent and impartial media constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society.”
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the council the issue is about “not giving in to threats and intimidation from those who advocate and practice violence and intolerance.”
Of the 593 cases of journalists killed between 2006 and 2013, almost half — 273 — took place in conflict zones, he said.
“Conflict and insecure environments must never be a pretext for silencing journalists — on the contrary,” Eliasson said. “It is precisely in these situations where the voices of the voiceless and reports from the front lines must be heard loud and clear.”
The resolution recognizes for the first time that media professionals “can play an important role in protection of civilians and conflict prevention by acting as an early warning mechanism in identifying and reporting potential situations that could result in genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
Addressing the Security Council, Christophe Deloire, director-general of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, called Wednesday “a historic day for the protection of journalists, and beyond that for press freedom.”
“It’s historic that the Security Council should make a link between the right to freedom of expression and the need to protect journalists, even though it may seem obvious,” he said.
But Deloire lamented that since the last resolution was adopted in 2006 hundreds of journalists have been killed, including 25 so far this year, and “as excellent as it may be, there is no certainty that a new resolution will in and of itself be enough to resolve the problem.”
He said implementing the U.N. resolutions is key and urged the U.N. to appoint a special representative to ensure that all 193 U.N. member states take measures to protect journalists.
Mariane Pearl, widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan in 2002, said the situation of journalists remains precarious 13 years later.
“We have become targets. Insurgent groups no longer use reporters to transmit news, but instead kidnap them to make news. They treat us as enemy combatants and spies. This is our everyday reality,” she said.