UN, international rights experts urge greater protection of journalists covering conflicts

Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO

1 September 2014 – Journalists covering conflicts must be afforded the highest degree of protection, a group of United Nations and international human rights experts said today, adding that the recent attacks, ongoing kidnappings, and arbitrary incarcerations of media professionals around the world must be condemned.

“The prevailing impunity for attacks on civilians, including journalists, encourages perpetrators to believe that they will never be held to account for their grave crimes,” they warned in a news release.

“We call for improved international protection for anyone engaged in journalism, especially during conflict situations.”

Stressing that journalists must be ensured the highest degree of protection by States and non-State actors, the rights voiced outrage at the recent execution of American journalist James Foley by the militant group known as the Islamic State (IS).

They also expressed deep concern at the fate of at least seven other journalists and members of the media believed to be held captive by the group in Syria.

“Journalists covering armed conflicts do not lose their status as civilians; they are not participants in the conflicts they cover. As such, they continue to be protected by the applicable guarantees under human rights law and international humanitarian law,” said the experts.

“Attacks against journalists covering conflicts victimize individuals first and foremost, but they also harm us all,” they added. “But attacks also deter and sometimes prevent journalists from exercising their right to seek and disseminate information. Attacks deprive all of us of the right to know and to access information about critical situations around the world.”

The experts called for an “open and committed dialogue” among governments, non-State groups, journalists and other interested parties in order to strengthen protections to promote the safety and respect for those reporting on a conflict, especially to ensure that those responsible for such violence are held accountable.

The experts issuing the call are: the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatoviæ; the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero Marino; and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Faith Pansy Tlakula.


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