In All-Day Debate, Security Council Voices Alarm at Growing Threats to Journalists, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2222 (2015)
In All-Day Debate, Security Council Voices Alarm at Growing Threats to Journalists, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2222 (2015)
Strongly condemning impunity for attacks on journalists, which had greatly increased globally, the Security Council, during an all-day open debate today, called on parties to conflict and all Member States to create a safe environment “in law and practice” for media professionals to do their important work.
The Council put out that call through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2222 (2015) early in a meeting that heard from nearly 70 speakers under the agenda item “Protection of civilians in armed conflict” and was chaired by Lithuania’s Foreign Minister, with briefings by the Deputy Secretary-General, as well as by the Director-General of Reporters Without Borders and Mariane Pearl, the widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and beheaded in Pakistan in early 2002.
Through the resolution, the Council expressed deep concern at the growing threat to journalists and associated media personnel, including killings, kidnapping and hostage-taking by terrorist groups. According to a concept note prepared by the Lithuanian presidency for the meeting (document S/2015/307), 61 journalists were killed in 2014 and 221 were imprisoned. The growing flagrancy of abuses was exemplified by the beheadings by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS). The note said that little progress has been made in addressing those crimes. Today’s resolution urged Member States to take active steps to ensure accountability.
Through the text, the Council affirmed that journalists and associated professionals were civilians — providing they took no actions adversely affecting that status — and emphasized that all international human rights law protecting civilians during conflict applied to them, as well as did the more focused Additional Protocol of the Geneva Conventions. It also affirmed the importance of a free and impartial media for the protection of civilians.
The Council reiterated its demand, in that light, that all parties in situations of armed conflict comply fully with international law on protection of non-combatants and do their utmost to prevent violations against them. Reiterating the primary responsibility of States in that endeavour and in safeguarding the right of free expression — “online as well as offline” — it condemned, however, the use of the media to incite violence.
Encouraging the United Nations and regional organizations to strengthen coordination on the protection of journalists, the Council affirmed that United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions, where appropriate, should include reporting on abuses against media workers. The Council requested the Secretary-General to include a sub-item on the topic in his reports on protection of civilians.
“It is our shared responsibility to protect the voices that alert, warn and inform on situations threatening international peace and security,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said as he opened the meeting, just prior to the adoption of the resolution. He described the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity that aimed to tackle the challenges and was being piloted in Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan and South Sudan.
Security Council members, he said, could support the Plan by endorsing it and unequivocally and consistently condemning all killings of journalists in conflict situations, including locally based journalists, and remain closely focused on protection of media workers.
Christophe Deloire, Director-General of Reporters Without Borders, welcomed the new resolution, but called on the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative on the protection of journalists to ensure that Member States abided by their commitments under the text and under previous resolution 1738 (2006).
Noting that more than 90 per cent of crimes against journalists went unprosecuted, Mr. Deloire called for cases to be referred by the Council to the International Criminal Court, particularly in regard to crimes committed in Syria and Iraq, which were not parties to the Rome Statute.
“The future depends on the depth and intensity of the vow embraced by people today,” Mariane Pearl said, stressing the importance of real journalism to modern society and emphasizing that it was not only terrorists that threatened journalists; it was also States who repressed them for counter-terrorism, for hiding corruption and other purposes.
Outlining other pressures that endangered the free dissemination of necessary information in the new media environment, Ms. Pearl stressed that the individuals who braved all such pressures to bring truth to light must be supported by equal courage from the international community. In that context, she welcomed the Action Plan and today’s resolution, but she called for further warnings to States not to use national security to intimidate journalists.
After those presentations, subsequent speakers further elaborated upon the dangers faced by journalists and other media workers, welcoming the adoption of the resolution and calling for its implementation on the ground. Many related the cases of individual journalists who had been killed or persecuted either by extremists or Governments. Some warned that violence against journalists was often a precursor to widespread human-rights violations.
Most speakers did not attempt to define journalism, though many urged journalists to retain an impartial stance in their reporting. The representative of the Russian Federation, however, said including all Internet users as journalists would not help the cause of media freedom, and Venezuela’s representative urged a distinction between journalism and corporate media. The representative of the United Kingdom said that the concept of journalist had to be updated in a context where a growing number of bloggers were being killed.
Also speaking at the ministerial or diplomatic level today were the representatives of Spain, United States, France, Chad, New Zealand, Malaysia, Jordan, Angola, Nigeria, China, Chile, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Sweden, Georgia, Japan, Italy, Liechtenstein, Thailand, Hungary, Finland, Syria, Indonesia, Austria, Colombia, Croatia, Poland, Greece, Israel, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Pakistan, Egypt, Australia, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Qatar, Botswana, Denmark, India, Canada, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Germany, Estonia, Ukraine, Turkey, Czech Republic, Argentina, Kuwait, Morocco, Ireland, Norway, Montenegro and Cyprus.
Representatives for the European Union Delegation and the African Union also spoke, as well as the Permanent Observer for the Holy See.
The meeting started at 10:05 a.m., suspended at 1 p.m., resumed at 3:05 p.m. and adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “This issue is fundamentally about the right to information, about protection of civilians, about respect for human rights and about not giving in to threats and intimidation from those who advocate and practice violence and intolerance.” Noting the spike in crimes against journalists, he said that some 95 per cent of those killed were locally-based and received less media coverage. He cited findings that illustrate the extent of the problem “from South Sudan to Libya, from Syria to Somalia and beyond”.
It was precisely in conflict situations where the voices of the voiceless and reports from the front lines must be heard loud and clear, he said. Ensuring the safety of journalists required a multifaceted approach that took account of the conditions in each conflict area and the different threats to a variety of journalists, including foreign correspondents, locally based reporters and women journalists. Corruption, intimidation, reprisals and weak judicial systems must be tackled, and a culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law must be built. In that light, the safety of journalists in non-conflict zones was of concern as well. Threats and attacks were committed by both State and non-State actors, often to silence information on human rights violations or other off-limits subjects.
The United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity aimed to tackle those challenges, he said. The Plan was being piloted in Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan and South Sudan among other countries. Security Council members could support the Plan by endorsing it and unequivocally and consistently condemning all killings of journalists in conflict situations, including locally based ones. It could also forward the agenda by continuing to focus on the matter, by encouraging Council-authorized missions to monitor and report on the situation and to include the safety of journalists in national reforms they were facilitating. He pledged that the United Nations system would continue to assist the Council in all such efforts. “It is our shared responsibility to protect the voices that alert, warn and inform on situations threatening international peace and security,” he concluded.
CHRISTOPHE DELOIRE, Director-General of Reporters Without Borders, said 66 journalists had been killed around the world last year while doing their job, with 25 such deaths reported so far this year. That showed that resolution 1738, adopted in 2006, was insufficient in addressing the problem of lack of safety of journalists. The draft text linked the right of freedom of expression to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a link that did not put one category of people above others but committed to defending the freedom of all.
A new Council resolution would not in and of itself be enough, he conceded, stressing that it provided the basis for further action. The Secretary-General needed to appoint a special representative on the protection of journalists to ensure that Member States abided by their commitments. The envoy’s mandate could be modelled after that of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and provide an early warning system for the Secretary-General. The special representative should maintain contacts with other organizations and institutions, undertake inquiries where States refused to do so, and be empowered to initiate legal action.
More than 90 per cent of crimes against journalists went unpunished and unprosecuted, which, he said, served almost as an incentive for attacks. Welcoming the new resolution’s mention of the International Criminal Court, he cited Iraq and Syria as “black holes”, where lack of free reporting led to wider tragedies. Since those two countries were not State parties to the Rome Statute, the Council should refer them to the Court, demonstrating unity of purpose.
Welcoming the resolution’s language calling for protection of both online and offline journalists, he said the profession should not be defined by a contractual obligation, but should be done so within its social functions. The globalization of threats had manifested itself in the world of the media, he said, stressing that most journalists were killed under supposedly peaceful regimes. Stating that 150 journalists and 170 non-professionals were languishing in prison simply for doing their job, he stressed the need for a mix between common aspirations and divergent interests for the sake of peace.
MARIANE PEARL, wife of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, said that “The Future depends on the depth and intensity of the vow embraced by people today,” adding that “journalists everywhere are those single, determined individuals who increasingly are bearing the weight of our democracies on their own”. Calling the present “a troubled time for our profession”, she stressed that intellectual and moral courage was needed to inspire others and to defeat oppression. “Somewhere along the wars we, journalists, have lost the old, unspoken agreement that we were a neutral and fair profession.” As a result, danger has increased and all were forced to wonder what kind of journalism is exactly worth dying for.
True courage was needed to go beyond the obvious, to fight preconceived ideas, to battle corruption and greed, she said. Unfortunately the confusion in journalism was great, including a search for economic models to compete with the Internet. Some ran after breaking news just to break the news; others were walking on the shaky ground between proper journalism and entertainment news. She was focused, however, on those journalists who had the courage to embrace the complexity of the world, the courage to honour the truth no matter how unpleasant or contrary to what the majority thought and to make the world aware of atrocities.
Terrorists were seeking to destroy dialogue and bonds between people, she said, and worked to create their own narrative that labelled people. They killed journalists, humanitarian workers, Americans, Jews, those they called infidels and so on in the hope of dispiriting those who identify with their victims. To create a counter-narrative, journalists must destroy the base on which terrorists operate: hatred. In her case, that translated into 13 years of a daily struggle to oppose hatred with empathy, violence with compassion and ignorance with education. However, it was not easy as terrorists were making news out of the killing of journalists, and many reporters in conflict zones were vulnerable freelancers and women.
In addition, terrorist groups were only a small part of the problem, she said. Nearly 60 per cent of journalists jailed around the world were imprisoned on anti-State charges. Impunity for killing journalists was endemic. Mass surveillance by some Council members put journalists and their sources at risk and an increasing number of countries were now using anti-terrorism laws to muzzle the press even further. Journalists continued to do valuable work, despite the threats, because they felt it was necessary. “I don’t want to go back to Chechnya, but if I don’t who will?”, she quoted Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya as saying sometime before she was murdered in front of her home in 2006.
The neutral space in which journalists could operate as independent witnesses was shrinking, she said, partly because Governments and terrorist groups alike could bypass those reporters and put their own controlled messages directly on line. That furthered skewed the information available for decision-making. She noted that, with more than 25 journalists already murdered this year, Member States had agreed on an Action Plan, but concerted efforts were needed on the ground to implement it. The Council must warn States that they should not use national security as an excuse to jail, harass or censor journalists. A statement or resolution addressing the threats journalists faced in that context would be an important sign of commitment to fight the scourge. She expressed hope that the moral courage exemplified by ordinary people such as journalists would inspire further action.
Council President LINAS LINKEVIČIUS, Foreign Minister of Lithuania, speaking in his national capacity, said that by exposing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by warring parties and abuses by military and security forces, as well as repressive regimes, journalists and media workers served as early warning mechanisms. The deliberate targeting of journalists was often used as a tactic of intimidation and revenge by parties to a conflict, which did not want their criminal actions exposed.
He said that the spread of radical extremism and terrorism added another highly dangerous dimension to the threats facing journalists, with Syria remaining the deadliest place for the profession. At least 80 journalists had been killed in that country since the conflict began in 2011. The second and third places with the most journalists’ deaths were Iraq and Ukraine, the latter because of the ongoing Russian-sponsored and -supported war against its sovereignty.
Even if the legal framework for the protection of journalists had evolved over the last decade, there was a need to reinforce existing international norms related to their protection. It was also urgent to reinforce the implementation of legal norms and provisions, including the accountability gap, as less than 5 per cent of the perpetrators of crimes against journalists had been prosecuted. It was the responsibility of all States to comply with their obligations to end impunity, for which strengthening national legislation and tackling impunity for attacks would be an important contribution. The safety concerns of bloggers and independent reporters and individuals should also be properly addressed.
Attacks on journalists were, like attacks on civilians, attacks on humanity and on the international community’s ability to understand and respond effectively to conflicts that threatened international peace and security. Neither truth nor journalists should be the first casualty of war. It was for that reason that Lithuania submitted a draft resolution on their protection.
IGNACIO YBAÑEZ, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, said freedom of the press and expression was the backbone of a free society. The growing attacks on journalists and media professionals during conflicts were an affront to humanity. The Council itself had brought on board several agenda items based on journalists’ work. Terrorists attacked journalists for countering their propaganda, which was central to defeating them. For that reason, the rights and protections of journalists must be strengthened through ratification of international instruments, as well as the appointment of a special representative. The prosecution of crimes against journalists as war crimes would go a long way towards protecting those professionals. Also needed was protection for the growing number of journalists and bloggers forced to flee their countries because of threats and intimidation. Since women journalists were increasingly coming under attack, gender-specific protections should be strengthened.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) related the case of Syrian journalists that were being held for years “for reporting the truth about the Assad regime’s atrocities”, she said, describing the toll on journalists in that conflict. Combined with the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), much journalism had been silenced there, as both parties “do not want people to see them for what they really are”, she added. Media was similarly being attacked in Burundi by the regime that wanted to stay in power. Repression of the press was the harbinger of further human rights violations, she stressed, citing examples in Ethiopia and Azerbaijan. Governments that attacked and overly restricted journalists should be condemned. Tools must be given for journalists to protect themselves, she stated, citing programmes developed by her country. In addition, steps must be taken to physically protect journalists. She cited Colombia’s national protection unit as an effective example of such action.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) described the attack on the publication Charlie Hebdo, which he said directly targeted free expression. He emphasized the global extent of the problem, with journalists targeted by both repressive Governments and terrorists. It was the responsibility of Governments to protect journalists, including by holding to account those who attacked them. He concurred that most such violations were in peaceful countries and stressed that the Plan of Action, which addressed that fact, must be fully implemented. A free media was a priority for France, as it was the greatest ally for democracy, he stated, calling for the Security Council to keep it a high priority as well.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said that eyewitness accounts of journalists on the ground were a necessity for the international community, in order to protect human rights and other principles. Protections for journalists must be strengthened, especially in the cases where non-State actors did not recognize international law. In fact, despite much normative progress, attacks on media workers had not abated. Combatants must, therefore, be given a strong message that such acts would not go unpunished, and concrete measures taken that could raise awareness on free expression and build capacity for States to protect journalists. At the same time, journalists must abide by the principles of impartiality and objectivity and news agencies must take measures to lessen the vulnerability of their workers.
GERARD VON BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said that, in 9 out of 10 cases, the perpetrators of attacks against journalists were never prosecuted. That remained first and foremost a national responsibility. While prosecution could pose challenges for fragile and conflict-affected States, there were many tools available to assist, including through regional organizations. He welcomed increased monitoring of the protection of journalists by the United Nations in the Secretary-General’s Protection of Civilians thematic report, as well as country-specific reports. Recognizing the particular vulnerabilities faced by local journalists — who represented a majority of victims and who often lacked the equipment and resources to keep them safe — he urged media organizations to take responsibility for all their staff, regardless of their national status. He also urged United Nations’ personnel in the field to remain alert to the protection challenges facing local journalists. The transformative effect of technology, which had led to the rise of “citizen journalists” who were often the only source of information in areas controlled by terrorists or other non-State actors, could not be ignored.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said journalists were recognized as civilians by international humanitarian law and, therefore, required the full protection of the international community. In that context, the resolution adopted today was a continuation of resolution 1738 (2006), he said, stressing the need for continuing action on different fronts based on their specific mandates. A broad categorization, such as including all Internet users as journalists, would not help the cause of media freedom. Despite efforts by the international community, the situation of journalists was far from ideal. In 2014, an increasing number of journalists were killed, while many others were victims of attacks, abductions, intimidation and confiscations. Of particular concern was the situation of journalists in Ukraine representing the Russian media, who were forced to work under discriminatory situations and faced harassment by security agencies. Such situations were not even considered by international human rights organizations.
SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) said the resolution adopted today made a positive contribution towards strengthening existing international norms and standards for the protection of civilians and in particular of journalists operating in situations of armed conflict. During such conflicts, the responsibility to protect rested on the parties to the conflict, which was clearly enshrined in the applicable international instruments. Expressing serious concern over the increasing trend of journalists being deliberately targeted by parties to the conflict, she said the Council must stiffen its collective resolve. The prevalence of a culture of impunity, absence of rule of law and good government, as well as law and order institutions, were among the key factors that threatened the safety and security of civilians. The perpetrators must be held accountable through punitive action.
EIHAB OMAISH (Jordan) despite decisive steps taken to protect journalists and media professionals, they continued to be attacked, intimidated and killed. Female journalists were becoming victims of sexual violence. The cause of those attacks was the nature of their work, he said, stressing that the changing nature of conflicts had exacerbated the situation. The international community must step up action against impunity against such crimes, with the United Nations contributing to building capacities of States to investigate and prosecute. Underlining the need for an international convention to protect journalists, he urged media organizations to train professionals in the risks of reporting from conflict zones.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the protection of journalists in both conflicts and in times of peace was a basic tenet of an open and democratic society. The increasing number of deaths and instances of harassment were a source of concern, exacerbated by news blackouts. The changing nature of conflict had created new risks for journalists, he said, stressing the need for ending impunity. The failure of States to do so only increased the risks of attacks. While implementing resolution 2222 (2015), the international community needed to update its concept of journalists, in a context where a growing number of bloggers were being killed. The bravery of journalists gave voice to those who had lost their own and provided early warning, spurring action from the international community which otherwise would have been missed, which the resolution adopted today recognized.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that while States had the primary responsibility to protect all civilians, including journalists, the international community also had an important role. Surveying the extent of the problem of violence against media workers, he stressed that women faced additional risks, which required a gender perspective on the problem, and that non-traditional journalists, such as bloggers also often faced threats. His country placed great importance on the protection of journalists and the fact that freedom of expression was enshrined in its Constitution. He, therefore, welcomed the action plan on the issue, but added that those responsible for attacks on journalists must be held to account and cooperation at the international and regional levels must be strengthened. Today’s resolution would help that effort, he concluded.
U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said that it was evident that international norms had not been able to protect journalists in conflict situations. In upholding those norms, States bore the primary responsibility. Lack of action created room for impunity, which worsened when the rule of law was weak and when extremist groups did not recognize the norms. Welcoming today’s resolution, she said the request for increased reporting on the issue was an important advance. Her country was committed to the rule of law and its Constitution guaranteed freedom of expression, which had been strengthened by recent acts on press freedom and transparency in governance. Nigeria was active in promoting freedom of expression on the Internet as well, being a sponsor of a landmark resolution of the Human Rights Council on the issue. She encouraged all Member States to create conditions that enabled journalists to do their work.
WANG MIN (China) described the important but vulnerable situation of journalists, paying tribute to those who braved the dangers of armed conflict. He condemned all attacks on media workers in such situations and extended condolences to their families. He supported effective action to end such attacks. Non-combatant journalists should be protected under international law that protected civilians. In that context, journalists should respect objectivity and neutrality, as well as the law and culture of the countries in which they were working. The international community should step up its fight against deliberate attacks against journalists while respecting the judicial prerogatives of the countries concerned and in concert with regional organizations. Terrorism and its root causes must also be combated in the effort, and synergies must be utilized across the United Nations system. China was prepared to fully support that effort.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), welcoming the adoption of the resolution, said that attacks on journalists constituted a direct attack on human rights and deprived the public of vital information. International and regional cooperation must be increased to fight the problem, in line with the plan of action on the issue. Sharing best practices was important, as was greater reporting through United Nations’ operations. By protecting journalists, conditions for international peace and security and the rule of law were established.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said the proliferation of terrorist groups had exemplified the dangers faced by journalists. The obscenity of the beheadings by ISIS in the “made-for-media” frenzy highlighted how journalists had become preferred targets of non-State parties. He called for the creation of a democratic environment for those who performed journalism as a service to society. He reiterated the need for the responsible use of information by the media organizations and cautioned against the manipulation of news for ulterior motives. With global media content controlled by a handful of corporations, it was important to ask whether free and unvarnished information was being provided. In that context, there should be a clear distinction between journalists and media corporations.
EDGARS RINKĒVIČS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, said freedom of expression depended on the safety of journalists and media professionals, whose work contributed to increased accountability, transparency and rule of law. Dramatic changes in the media landscape had resulted in an unprecedented flow of information from conflict settings, which was a catalyst for rapid and effective response. In that context, it was important, not only to safeguard, but to strengthen the ability of the media to provide independent and reliable information. Freedom of expression, both off-line and online, and strengthening the media’s independence, were long-standing priorities of Latvia, which it was promoting as part of its Presidency of the Council of the European Union and in other international forums. The world community was responsible to translate today’s resolution into reality. Strong protection must be put in place so that journalists could safely fulfil their missions. Clear political will, a comprehensive and coherent approach, a broad strategy for conflict prevention and an enhanced role for United Nations peacekeeping operations were central to that undertaking.
TOFIG F. MUSAYEV, Special Envoy and Head of the Regional Security Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said existing rules, as well as important efforts taken by the Council, provided a solid basis for protection of journalists. At the same time, there was a significant gap between the normative standards and their implementation, a situation that left little room for optimism. The increased brutality of armed conflicts and the changing nature of warfare and terrorist and separatist threats gave rise to the need for greater protection measures.
The problem could not be addressed effectively without the will of States and the broader international community to take all necessary measures to ensure full respect for existing norms, he said. The war waged against Azerbaijan by neighbouring Armenia claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, including a number of journalists. However, the perpetrators of those violations, among the members of the political military leadership of Armenia, continued to enjoy impunity. Such a situation represented a serious challenge both to upholding rights and freedoms and to ensuring sustainable peace, justice, truth and reconciliation. Comments made by the United States representative during the debate were irrelevant to the agenda and constituted a direct challenge to the legal process in his country.
GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said areas controlled by terrorist groups and non-State actors required special consideration of the Council. While the safety of all journalists was a matter of concern, a distinction needed to be made to threats posed during armed conflicts and those posed during peacetime. It was important not to lose sight of the fact that the safety and security of journalists could also be jeopardized by secret surveillance programmes. The first victim of war was truth and it was important to separate journalism from propaganda.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said Syria provided a tragic illustration of the perils associated with reporting from conflict areas. Two Swedish journalists had been abducted near Yabroud in 2013 and were luckily freed, but others had been murdered and targeted. The international community had an obligation to react against that worrying trend and States must take further steps to prevent violence and promote a safe environment for journalists. They must continue to demand and explore ways to ensure that international law with regard to their protection was upheld, with the Council and peacebuilding architecture playing important roles to support rule-of-law institutions. Impunity must not be tolerated and States must ensure accountability. Preventive action was also needed to promote safety and fight impunity and the international community must address the root causes of violence against journalists. Media freedom was a “litmus test” for any society and a lack of it could serve as an early warning sign to emerging conflict.
DAVID DONDUA, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, urged the Council to address the important issue more actively and frequently amid the ever increasing trend of violence against journalists in conflict and non-conflict situations. The areas controlled by non-State actors and terrorist groups, as well as territories under foreign occupation, were zones of risk for journalists. Georgia had seen the deaths of journalists during the 2008 war with Russia. Barbwire fences and other artificial obstacles along the occupation line disrupted person-to-person contact between communities. In April, occupation troops illegally detained three journalists reporting on the issue. None of those cases were subjected to proper investigation, a trend that was being witnessed worldwide.
When the State-run mass media was engaged in fierce propaganda, social radicalization and militarization became a usual phenomenon, he said. The United Nations should declare unequivocally that military occupation could not serve as an excuse not to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists. Identifying journalists as a special category of persons who should be protected by the mandates of peacekeeping operations and special political missions was an important first step in ensuring protection of journalists. He urged the Secretary-General to consider the possibility of a specific report on the issue of protection of journalists in armed conflict.
YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan), affirming that attacks on journalists were attacks on the foundations of democracy, said his country was determined to work with the international community to end such “acts of depravity”. Noting that the known perpetrator of the murders of Kenji Goto, James Foley, David Haines and many others was still walking free, he called for the killer and all others who had committed similar crimes be brought to justice, building on the newly adopted resolution. As journalists were civilians, it was the duty of peacekeepers to protect them under their mandates, but considering them as a special category in other ways could bring greater attention to their plight. To counter terrorist atrocities, his country had pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help build capacity for the fight against ISIL. The Council must take decisive measures to tackle the issue of serious crimes committed by non-State actors and to prevent impunity.
EMILIA GATTO (Italy), associating with the European Union, recalled several Italian journalists who had recently made the ultimate sacrifice in Ukraine, Gaza and Afghanistan. In conflict situations, journalists were not just civilians, “they are our gateway to the world, to both the good and the bad”. The protection they deserved as human beings also stemmed from the precious gift of information they provided. The impunity that seemed to be the rule when journalists were attacked was unacceptable. Greater efforts must be made to assure that the perpetrators were brought to justice. In addition, there was a danger that fewer people would choose the career of journalism due to fear for their safety. “We cannot accept that the self-censorship implicit in threats to personal safety might undermine the richness of pluralism,” she said in that respect. An action-oriented strategy was needed that involved education and specific attention to non-State actors, who were increasingly perpetrating hostile acts against journalists.
STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein), noting that local journalists, freelancers and women were in a particularly vulnerable situation, said female journalists also endured appalling sexual violence. Safety of journalists was also an issue of self-interest for the Council, as it relied on information they provided. Welcoming the resolution adopted today and, in particular, its strong references to international humanitarian law, he stressed Governments’ obligation to protect journalists as a matter of human rights law. There was a need to increase efforts towards accountability for such crimes in order to increase deterrence. Media organizations needed to provide proper training and resources to journalists reporting from conflict zones. Illegal surveillance, censorship, and reprisals threatened journalists, and countering them should be high on the Council’s agenda.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said that, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of opinion and expression were fundamental rights of every human being. States must take steps to prevent violence and to promote a safe environment for journalists and other media actors, enabling them to carry out their work independently, without undue interference and without fear of violence or persecution. In that respect, he encouraged States to take preventive measures and to ensure effective investigations in cases where violations or abuses had occurred. “We all have an obligation to react to the worrying trend of increased level of intimidation and violence that journalists, media actors and other individuals faced in many countries across the world because of their job,” he said. Through its bilateral Human Rights Dialogues, the European Union had encouraged States to take active steps to protect journalists. In addition, the Union was supporting concrete actions in the field of protection of journalists, including in countries in crisis.
Describing other initiatives undertaken, he said that the protection of journalists was a top priority for the European Endowment for Democracy. In addition, the Council of Europe had launched an Internet platform which compiled and disseminated factual data on physical threats to journalists or risks to the confidentiality of media sources, and enabled dialogue with States concerned on possible remedies for protective measures. Stressing the need to protect journalists outside of combat, he went on to encourage the Secretary-General to continue to include the protection of journalists in armed conflict in his report on the protection of civilians and to encourage peacekeeping and special political missions to take up the issue in their reporting. The Security Council should also address the protection of journalists in situations of armed conflict, including through public statements.
CHAYAPAN BAMRUNGPHONG (Thailand) said that it was clearly stated in Rule 34 of the Customary International Humanitarian Law that civilian journalists engaged in professional missions in areas of armed conflict must be respected and protected as long as they were not taking part in the hostilities. “The attack deliberately targeted at civilians amounts to a war crime and perpetrators must be held accountable,” he said. Further, impunity emboldened perpetrators to continue their brutal acts. Ending it must begin at the national level, encompassing political will, strengthening of judicial systems and effective law enforcement. The number of inquiry commissions and fact-finding missions should be increased. “The Security Council must be clear and strong in its messages and resolutions that violations against civilians and journalists will not be tolerated,” he said.
He recognized that targeted sanction against individuals and entities involved in heinous crimes against civilians was one of the Council’s various tools. However, fair and clear procedures for listing and delisting must be ensured. Finally, he urged a clear code of conduct on areas not to be accessed by journalists, as well as when they should evacuate from conflict zones. If necessary, their presence might be replaced with modern technology and equipment.
ZSOLT HETESY (Hungary) said over the past decades conditions for journalists had deteriorated sharply, directly affecting the freedom of opinion and expression. For people in conflict situations, access to quality and timely information could be a matter of life and death, with the unhindered work of journalists having a mitigating effect on the conflict and on the worst violations. Restrictions or targeted attacks on the press, alongside biased propaganda, could easily contribute to an escalation. A vast majority of those crimes against journalists had gone unpunished. The rise in the number of targeted attacks was a symptom of a much broader problem related to the diminishing respect for international human rights and humanitarian law obligations in conflict situations, he said, noting a need to focus on the root causes. Violence against journalists could only be addressed with the cooperation of States, United Nations agencies and relevant stakeholders, he said, pointing to the plan of action on journalists’ safety and impunity as the “first holistic effort” to address the problem.
TÉTE ANTONIO, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said that the testimony of Ms. Pearl said a great deal about the situation of journalists in “hotspots” on the ground. Despite the setting up of normative frameworks to protect journalists, the problem was the absence of vigorous implementation of those structures. In Africa, terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and others were engaged in atrocities against journalists. In partnership with civil society and media professionals, the African Union was committed to fighting against restrictions facing journalists in conflict zones. A workshop on that issue was held by the African Union in recent years, and a follow-up mechanism set up to ensure that States held up their commitments. There was a need to ensure the respect for the status of “non-combatant” enjoyed by journalists, and to ensure that victims had a right to support and redress. The African Union Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights had adopted a resolution which requested all parties to conflicts to allow journalists to perform their duties and to ensure respect for their safety and human rights. The ultimate objective was to silence weapons, as armed conflicts would continue to lead to cases of abuse of human rights.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that journalists in conflict settings provided a lifeline to those trapped behind combat lines and offered policymakers and the international community the information necessary to make informed and responsible decisions on how to end conflicts and assist those affected by them. Deploring the killings of journalists, he said there was no excuse for parties in conflict not to respect and protect the press in their important work of producing unbiased reports. While there were tools at the international community’s disposal to address that, too often the murders of journalists went unpunished. He called for a re-examination and assessment of the current press rights and protection measures to ensure that they were still adequate. Since conflict often triggered a collapse of the State institutions meant to protect journalists, the international community could play an important role in providing technical and financial assistance for needy countries to improve policies and address violations.
KAI SAUER (Finland) said that his country supported the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The only truly effective means to keep journalists and other civilians safe was to prevent the escalation of conflict in the first place. Finland was proud to have been ranked as number one for five years in a row in the World Press Freedom Index. Stressing that media professionals, journalists and human rights defenders could play an important role in preventing conflicts through providing valuable early warning information, he went on to say that human rights also applied online. Respect for human rights and international law was crucial to all activities in cyberspace. He, therefore, supported openness and transparency online and equal access to the Internet. In 2014, Finland adopted guidelines on protecting and supporting human rights defenders, and it was supporting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) “Promoting Freedom of Expression” programme in six countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Finland would also host the main event of World Press Freedom Day in 2016.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that, as he was speaking, Al-Jazeera satellite television was broadcasting an interview with a terrorist leader aimed at inciting the Syrian people, in flagrant violation of Council resolutions. The Qatari regime was using the commander of Al Nusra Front — listed as a terrorist group by the United Nations — to cleanse their image in the way the mafia laundered money. The Syrian Government had launched initiatives to streamline the work of journalists, which was appreciated by the then United Nations envoy. Syria continued to welcome foreign journalists arriving in the country in a legal way and cautioned them against visiting terrorist-controlled areas. It was unfortunate that journalists, like Syrian civilians, had been killed by terrorist groups, and the Government was working with international organizations to free those abducted. Journalists, however, continued to enter danger zones where the Government could not guarantee their security. The “media machine” in the region continued to violate all notions of ethics to recruit foreign terrorists, while the Council remained paralysed.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said that the debate assumed great importance as journalists and journalism continued to journey into peril. Ironically, symbols of freedom and democracy continued to be targeted despite the protections afforded to them by international humanitarian law. Resolution 1738 (2006) stressed the responsibility of States to protect civilians, including journalists, during armed conflict. However, outside extremist groups were using the media to fan their message of hate. Steps taken to prevent impunity could be the most effective deterrent against attacks on journalists. He urged news organizations to work in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders, including United Nations peacekeepers. Journalists should also be familiar with international humanitarian law in order to take advantage of the protections to which they were entitled.
ANDREAS RIECKEN (Austria), associating himself with the European Union, emphasized that the majority of attacks on journalists took place in situations that could not be qualified as traditional or typical armed conflict situations. While it was the responsibility of States to ensure respect for the rights of journalists, all parties to a conflict, including non-State actors, must comply with rules of international humanitarian law, as well as international criminal law. The Council must regularly address the issue in a substantial manner, including in its country-specific deliberations. Encouraging the Secretary-General to include more detailed information on the situation of and threats against journalists in his future reports on the protection of civilians, he urged the Council to invite United Nations experts for briefings.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) said that many reports on the issue of journalistic freedom showed a serious deterioration in the situation in which journalists worked and increasing threats to their safety. That was a reflection of the worsening humanitarian situation around the world. Allowing opposition movements to express themselves was a fundamental principle in Colombia, which in the past had been forced to face up to wars that unsuccessfully sought to silence the country’s democracy. During the 1980s and early 1990s, while the central Government was fighting the transnational network of drug trafficking mafias, it was journalists who dared to publish headlines about the mafia’s activities. In 2012, alongside civil society, the country had established a public policy with the aim of strengthening the right to freedom of expression in journalism. A National Protection Unit had been created, which had provided security for more than 137 journalists who were facing threats, supplying them with the necessary means for their protection, including armoured vehicles. Through its Chief Prosecutor, Colombia had also strengthened its ability to hold perpetrators accountable.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said it was troubling that those responsible for attacking and killing journalists rarely faced justice. Against that disturbing background, Croatia valued and fully supported the efforts of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Security Council to provide journalists with more effective protection and develop a single, strategic and harmonized approach to the issue. Stressing the need to ensure full cooperation between existing protection mechanisms, he underscored the specific risks faced by women journalists, including sexual and gender-based violence. Better cooperation and coordination were needed among international, regional and local actors, including in establishing effective early warning mechanisms.
PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, said the dangers for journalists often transgressed the borders of the conflicts zones, as the case of Syria demonstrated. Contrary to international obligations, standards and declarations, the safety and rights of journalists were often not ensured. Member States were obliged to take active steps to prevent and respond to violence and intimidation against journalists and other media actors, enabling them to work in safety and security. While preventive mechanisms must be further elaborated, sharing of best practices, training, and awareness-raising for security services and journalists could contribute to prevent future violations. To address the issue of impunity, Poland supported the European Endowment for Democracy to keep the media environment safe, including in conflict zones.
CATHERINE BOURA (Greece) said the newly adopted resolution highlighted, among other things, new challenges that should be addressed. Working conditions were increasingly deteriorating, as could be seen with the heinous crimes committed since August 2014 by ISIS, including the assassination of seven journalists in April in Derna, Libya. To end impunity for such acts, all stakeholders must be engaged using a comprehensive approach involving all actors. To promote safety in war zones, training for journalists could be offered within existing infrastructure, she said, noting that the Hellenic Multinational Peace Support Operations Training Center was ready to launch such a programme. Every case of a journalist who was harassed, injured, arbitrarily detained or killed was an assault to freedom of expression and a threat to the foundations of an open and democratic society.
DAVID ROET (Israel) said the most dangerous place in the world for journalists was the Middle East. From Saudi Arabia to Iraq and from Gaza to Iran, freedom of the press was under siege. In other parts of the region, fanatical zealots mocked the very idea of human rights, and preferred “rule by sword” over rule of law. The iron-fisted rule of Hamas on the Gaza Strip provided a powerful example of what happened when the press was not free to report what they saw and heard. Israeli families last summer raced to bomb shelters, knowing they had only seconds to take cover from Hamas rockets. Yet those who turned on their televisions or opened their newspapers did not see reports of the obvious war crimes committed by Hamas. The Palestinian Authority fared no better, where the United States Department of State said security forces harassed, detained and prosecuted journalists for trying to do their jobs. The one exception to the rule in the Middle East was Israel, a model for how a democratic nation, even while facing immense challenges could maintain a free and thriving press. It was the responsibility of the international community to work together to protect journalists around the world.
AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan) said that targeting journalists was a direct attack on the freedom of expression and, therefore, against democracy, which depended on the free flow of information. Such attacks blocked information about political developments, the extent of conflicts, human rights violations and crimes against humanity, which today were transmitted in real time. They also reduced the ability of the United Nations and its organs, as well as regional organizations, to act promptly and appropriately. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) with its Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations country teams, together with large media and aid agencies, must first ensure that Governments and non-State actors enforce existing instruments for the protection of journalists. The United Nations system should also work with media non-governmental organizations to provide better safeguards through enhanced ratification of the Additional Protocols, the specific classification of attacks on media as war crimes under international criminal law, and finally better mitigation, advocacy and education.
WOUTER ZAAYMAN (South Africa) called for all parties to armed conflict to refrain from killing civilians, including journalists, and to ensure respect and protection. His Government was fully committed to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and continued to support a normative and legal framework for enhancing that protection. Attacks against journalists and the growing number of casualties could deter journalists from accepting assignments and exercising their right to seek and disseminate information, to the detriment of citizens around the world. That dissemination was also critical to the work of the Security Council, he said, adding his support for the idea of reinforcing accountability measures such as the strengthening of national judicial institutions, as well as ensuring that the Rome Statute “speaks to the challenges of today”. In South Africa, the rights of journalists were fully protected by the law and that was displayed by the vibrancy of the media that disseminated information to the public without fear or favour.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that, as a former journalist, she knew the risks they took to unveil and uphold the truth. Free press was an “enabling right” because it helped to secure a wide range of other universal human rights. In the information age, the role and contribution of journalists was even more critical, as they helped to shape opinion and assisted in presenting moral and political choices in conflict situations. She shared the world’s outrage at the recent beheading and summary execution of journalists by terrorists. “This barbarism must come to an end and the safety of media personnel should be fully assured,” she said. While the current international legal framework for the protection of journalists was robust, deliberate violence against them was nonetheless on the rise. That alarming trend called for innovative thinking, approaches and responses. Among her suggestions was greater understanding and awareness and full and effective implementation of existing provisions of international law; a well-coordinated and comprehensive international awareness-raising campaign; intensified efforts to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice; and careful review of practices such as embedded journalism; among others.
OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that, while civilians ran away from armed conflicts, journalists exposed themselves to potential hostilities to inform the international community. The primary responsibility for the protection of civilians, including journalists, rested with States. That obligation also fell to non-State actors as well as all parties to the conflict. There needed to be coordination and cooperation among the various institutions working to preserve the legitimate rights and interests of journalists. States not yet party to existing international legal instruments should accede to them. Calling for particular consideration to the targeting of journalists by terrorist groups, he said peacekeeping operations and special political missions could positively contribute to protection efforts.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said the targeting of journalists was often a precursor to widespread crimes against civilians, with victims often being local reporters. Violence against journalists would persist unless perpetrators knew that their attacks would have consequences. Yet impunity of crimes against journalists was too commonplace. States must do more to protect civilians and eliminate impunity for crimes against civilians, including journalists. They must systematically investigate, apprehend and try those responsible, as well as recognize the particular needs of female journalists. Australia supported the United Nations Plan of Action to improve the safety of journalists and end impunity for crimes committed against them, and all Member States should work together to implement the provisions. The Council should condemn attacks on journalists and provisions protecting them should be included in relevant mandates. The Organization should also ensure that peacekeepers were trained to provide protection when appropriate.
OLIVIER ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said violence against journalists should be treated as an attack on society as a whole. State authorities were obliged to respect and to ensure respect for the freedoms of expression and the media as an essential component of effective governance. The protection of journalists should not be limited to armed conflict, he said, stressing the need for cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations to improve implementation of international norms and standards. Perpetrators of violations against journalists must be held accountable, he said, stressing the need for clear legislative and regulatory measures to enable journalists to do their work without interference or danger to their personal safety and security.
BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET (Belgium), noting slow progress in protecting reporters and underlining the essential contribution those individuals provided in the promotion of democratic values and human rights in conflict situations, said that it was unacceptable that State parties were responsible for most of the violence against journalists. On the contrary, they must take every effort to protect them. She related efforts that were being undertaken to develop a framework for the safety of journalists, including preparation, support, equipment and psychological treatment. It was ever more urgent to protect and recognize stringers and bloggers, as well as local reporters, who were extremely vulnerable. Those who would put media workers in danger must be prosecuted.
KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), aligning himself with the European Union, said that the role of journalists before, during and after conflict was indispensable. Media was crucial in promoting human rights, democratization, peace and conflict resolution. It was vital that journalists be able to work freely, without undue interference and without fear, especially in dire situations such as Burundi at present. There was a specific role for United Nations peacekeeping missions in the protection of civilians, including journalists, as evidenced in the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. Further, violent acts against journalists needed to be prosecuted, as impunity perpetuated violence and created a climate of self-censorship when journalists, fearing for their lives or those of their families, refrained from covering certain stories. Where a free press was threatened and investigative and independent journalism was absent, corruption and illegal activity flourished. It was the responsibility of States to maintain a safe environment for the media and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for planning and perpetrating violent acts against journalists.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said freedom of expression and access to information was a basis of democracy, rule of law, economic development and peace and security. Knowledge of issues was necessary in order to resolve them. Surveying the extent of violence against civilians and the impunity for those crimes, she said the situation was particularly bad in Syria due both to Government and terrorist action. She called journalists there heroes willing to give up their lives to show what was happening. She supported the recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General on enhancing the safety of journalists, as well as the resolution adopted today. Her country had established the Doha Centre for the Press and hosted a number of conferences including the 2009 UNESCO Conference on Freedom of the Press, and it remained committed to the implementation of provisions of international texts that promoted freedom of expression.
CHARLES NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said recent beheadings of journalists were a stark reminder of the targeted brutality that often confronted media professionals. Despite the Council’s adoption of resolution 1738 (2006), the rising number of such deliberate acts of violence was a growing concern and the resolution’s implementation had been mediocre, if not dismal, with low levels of accountability. As such, the international community must build the required capacity to assist States. Greater efforts should be made towards accountability and preventing impunity, with the onus on States at the national level to ensure journalists could safely work. Freedom of expression and an independent media were fundamental for sustainable development, he said, adding that “information is power and it is this information which journalists risk their lives to avail, which should urgently be translated into national development policies and interventions for the betterment of humanity”.
IB PETERSEN (Denmark), associating with the European Union, said that, in too many countries, the State used media laws to keep journalists from criticizing those in power. While that was not new, the deeply worrying trend of the deliberate targeting of journalists — including by terror organizations and militia groups such as the ISIS — was. The United Nations Plan of Action on safety for journalists and the issue of impunity was an important step; however, the protection of journalists could not be solved only through top-down approaches. “These initiatives need to be combined with actual action on the ground,” he said, citing the launch of two proposals at the Global Media Freedom Conference in Copenhagen last month, which sought to strengthen free media in developing countries and fragile States and included strong components for protection. One programme, of approximately $2 million, was through the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and another, of $750,000, was through International Media Support in cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists.
ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI (India) said it was not so much the lack of rules but the failure to implement existing rules that posed the principal challenge. The changing nature of conflict called for concerted efforts by all parties to protect journalists. Since 1950 India had supported and adhered to the Geneva Conventions and protected journalists. All parties to armed conflicts should comply with their obligations, he said, adding that even non-State terrorist groups could not act in a vacuum. To that end, the Council should use the tools at its disposal to widen the protections. Journalists should function within the relevant laws of the country in which they operated, seek legal entry and not become parties to conflicts. While concurring with proposals to place protection of journalists as a mandate under peacekeeping operations, India believed that the responsibility fell under the host country.
MICHAEL BONSER (Canada) stressed the importance of the Council and all Member States continuing to focus on civilian suffering and displacement caused by armed conflict amid a disturbing trend of armed groups targeting journalists. ISIL had been connected to some of the more horrifying killings of journalists, yet most often local reporters were the target of threats and attacks, as seen in Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine and other conflict zones. As tensions escalated in Burundi, he was concerned by reports that media were being forced out of the country. All Member States needed to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without fear or violence or arbitrary detention. Perpetrators of such acts must be held accountable and the international community must not be silent on the issue, he said, urging Member States to maintain their attention and resolve on the protection of civilians.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), fully endorsing the statement made on behalf of the European Union, paid tribute to journalists who had given their lives to perform their jobs. She said that the Council must firmly condemn all attacks and promote the prosecution of their perpetrators. As the great majority of the crimes go unpunished, the fight against impunity must be central to the protection of journalists in conflict zones. Her country co-sponsored a resolution for the year to fight impunity for crimes against journalists for that reason. Cooperation of all actors was necessary to change things on the ground and guarantee freedom of expression, including the entire United Nations system, regional organizations and civil society. Welcoming today’s resolution in that regard, she said she looked for the necessary follow-up from the Council.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said that journalism had become one of the most dangerous vocations in the world and it was important to remind combatants that those individuals were civilians. States had a responsibility to investigate all crimes against journalists, but most went unprosecuted. Greater partnership was needed to end impunity; the Security Council in that context had a great responsibility because it had the ability to refer cases to the International Criminal Court even when a country was not a signatory to the Rome Statute. Terrorist activity must not make conflict areas blacked-out zones; atrocities and other developments in those areas must be brought to light. All violence against journalists must be condemned, and today’s resolution was an important text in that context.
THOMAS SCHIEB (Germany) recalled the brutal murder of German war correspondent Anja Niedringhaus in Afghanistan in April 2014, and said that “independent journalists are our eyes and ears in this world of growing complexity”. More citizen reporters and independent bloggers were joining the traditional media corps, and more freelance staff was being hired. As a result, it was more difficult to provide protection. Journalists were usually in the greatest danger in areas controlled by non-State armed groups; at the same time, they were often the only independent source of information left in an environment marked by anarchy. “In other words, journalists are often at their most vulnerable exactly where they are needed most,” he said. It was time to redouble efforts to improve the protection of journalists, namely through effective warning, accountability, training, and the continued discussion of the issue in the Security Council.
MARGUS KOLGA (Estonia) said that, as information moved at the speed of light, it was important to convey accurate and impartial reports from conflict zones and bring them to the public attention as quickly as possible. Regrettably, journalists were becoming targets of brutal attacks by their own Governments, parties to conflict or terrorist organizations. International organizations, Governments, media and other actors must work together to strengthen the safety of journalists and hold accountable those responsible for such attacks. Tackling impunity and punishing perpetrators should be the best possible deterrent. While States should be the first to prosecute the perpetrators, the Council should consider referring such cases to the International Criminal Court.
YEHOR PYVOVAROV (Ukraine), associating with the European Union, said the subject of the debate was particularly sensitive for his country in view of the foreign aggression it continued to suffer. One of the main reasons for the increasing killings of journalists was the increase in regions of instability. The creation of an open and democratic society would help to restore stability and protect all segments of society. Strengthening professional non-governmental organizations could also help promote the general well-being of journalists. Ukraine considered the United Nations and the Council as the first responders, he said, stressing that independent journalism had inspired the revolution of a year ago. Recent legislative initiatives were aimed at strengthening protections for journalists. Russian aggression and hostile acts had resulted in crimes against journalists to a level unseen during Ukraine’s status as an independent State. The Russian State media were being used to promote nationalism and chauvinism, which ran counter to the United Nations Charter and international conventions.
LEVENT ELER (Turkey), associating with the European Union, said the growing threats to journalists and media professionals in conflict zones portrayed the gravity of the task at hand. Particular attention was needed to promote accountability, he said, lauding initiatives taken by the United Nations and the Council of Europe in that regard. Peacekeeping operations and special political missions could also play an important role in protecting journalists and ending impunity. Turkey took pride in hosting international journalists reporting on conflicts in the region and in assisting them to do their job without hindrance.
EDITA HRDÁ (Czech Republic), associating with the European Union, deplored attacks against journalists and impunity for the perpetrators. International cooperation must be matched by strenuous national effort around the globe. Her country stressed that protection of journalists must be at the centre of human rights efforts. Nothing less was owed to the survivors of the courageous individuals who had given their lives.
FRANCISCO JAVIER DE ANTUENO (Argentina) said that journalism was a fundamental tool for the right to information, which was particularly crucial in conflict areas. Unfortunately, it was facing more complex threats. It was particularly important that journalists and their support staff be recognized as civilians, so respect for international law was critical, as was ending impunity for those who threatened them. The major danger of terrorists now was another reason for concentrated work against that scourge. The Council should continue its focus on protection of civilians, including journalists, and support the end of impunity for serious crimes.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH A ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the adoption of resolution 2222 (2015) was a positive step towards the protection of journalists. At the same time, it was important to note that successive Council resolutions and statements on protecting civilians during conflicts had not translated into satisfactory action on the ground, owing partly to differences between permanent and non-permanent members on the Council. The flouting of international humanitarian law was responsible for the insecurity gripping such places as the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syria. Kuwait had held a number of international donor conferences resulting in $6.6 billion in commitments to the Syrian people, he said, stressing that a political solution would ultimately have to be found. Unilateral measures taken by partisan forces in Yemen undermined the political transition there.
ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) said the debate on the pressing theme required further commitment from the international community. Under international humanitarian law, reporters were granted protection during times of conflict. However, they should be provided protection during all times as they discharged their responsibility to society. The digital age had created new forums, which required the same protections, he said, stressing the need to end impunity in order to prevent further violence.
TIM MAWE (Ireland) said journalists were the “key cogs” in the civil society machine and a free media was a powerful force for positive change and democratic transformation. Too many Governments continued to use repressive laws to target journalists and all States had a duty to respect, protect and promote human rights. Ireland had provided assistance to countries to help improve journalistic standards. Amid terrorist attacks on freedom of speech, impunity must end. As such, he encouraged the Secretary-General and the Council to remain seized of the issue of protecting journalists in armed conflict, including through reporting requirements for peacekeeping missions and strengthening mandates.
MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said safeguarding the freedom of expression and free press were at the heart of her country’s human rights policy. Journalists went where most were unwilling or unable to go in order to report and shed light on atrocities; they were often subjected to attacks for simply doing their jobs. Norway would continue to work towards safety for journalists online and offline and against impunity. The international legal framework was in place, but, in practice, the gap between commitments and respect for human rights was far too big. The political will and implementation of policies at the national level must ensure the safety of the press in conflict situations, and threats and attacks against journalists must be investigated effectively and impartially. “No journalist should have to risk their life to report facts and news.”
ZELJKO PEROVIĆ (Montenegro) said restrictions on press freedom deprived society of information needed to engage in informed debates and to assess governmental policies and practices. Protecting journalists was a building block of an open society and effective democracy. Concerned about the killings of media workers in the line of duty, he said States must ensure that those responsible were brought to justice. Efforts by the international community must be strengthened in order to reduce those risks and threats. He strongly supported the United Nations plan of action, which helped Sates develop legislation and mechanisms to create a free and safe environment. He encouraged all Member States to work together with the United Nations to implement the plan’s provisions.
NICHOLAS EMILIOU (Cyprus) said everyone had a right to freedom of expression and to receive and impart information. It was incumbent on all Governments to respect that right without interference. As journalists continued to be imprisoned and killed, it was important to recommit to that freedom and foster an independent and pluralistic media. That was a prerequisite to democracy, peace and development. Targeted attacks on journalists, including in Paris and Copenhagen, showed that the problem was global and that no place was really safe. Governments must redouble their efforts and take measures to prevent violence and promote a safe environment for journalists so they could do their jobs. The United Nations could also play its part in global efforts to promote protection and end impunity.
Iran’s representative said Israel’s delegate had defamed other countries and used the Council to divert attention from Israel’s actions against civilians in Gaza in 2014. More than a dozen Palestinian journalists had been killed and that had been jailed. In a digital age, it was hard to hide “bloody hands”, he concluded.
Taking the floor for a second time, Jordan’s representative said his delegation rejected the false allegations made by Syria’s speaker. Attempts by that representative to distract attention from the practices of the Syrian regime against its own people were unsuccessful.
The representative of the Russian Federation, also taking the floor for a second time, said the situation of the protection of journalists in Ukraine was a concern. Ukraine was currently among those who led the list in the killing of journalists, he said, noting that there had been six deaths of journalists in 2014, the majority of whom had been Russian. This year, correspondents had been attacked and their health and lives were under threat, attesting to violations by Ukraine in protecting journalists. He called for measures to be taken to address those concerns and for perpetrators to be held accountable.
Israel’s delegate, also taking the floor for a second time, said that it was absurd that one of the world’s most tyrannical regimes spoke about press freedoms. Instead, the repression and torture of journalists in Iran should be investigated, as dozens of reporters and bloggers there had been arrested for telling the truth about that regime. The Council was the appropriate forum through which to change those disturbing realities.
Taking the floor again, Ukraine’s representative said that with more than 300 deaths of journalists in Russia since 1993, that country remained among the most dangerous places for the press in the region. The Russian Federation had imposed restrictions on press freedoms, including limiting foreign ownership of media organizations. He had heard Soviet-style propaganda coming from the Russian delegation, which seemed to believe that the more they repeated a story, the more it would become true. Instead, the Russian Federation should “simply get out of my land and let the whole of Europe live in peace”, he concluded.
The full text of resolution 2222 (2015) reads as follows:
“The Security Council
“Bearing in mind its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security, and underlining the importance of taking measures aimed at conflict prevention and resolution,
“Reaffirming its resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), 1674 (2006) and 1894 (2009) on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and its resolution 1738 (2006) on the protection of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflicts as well as other relevant resolutions and presidential statements,
“Reaffirming its commitment to the Purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as set out in Article 1 (1-4) of the Charter, and to the Principles of the Charter as set out in Article 2 (1-7) of the Charter, including its commitment to the principles of the political independence, sovereign equality and territorial integrity of all States, and respect for the sovereignty of all States,
“Recalling the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, in particular the Third Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 on the treatment of prisoners of war, and the Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977, in particular article 79 of the Additional Protocol I regarding the protection of journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict,
“Recognizing that the work of journalists, media professionals, and associated personnel often puts them at specific risk of intimidation, harassment and violence in situations of armed conflict,
“Reaffirming that parties to an armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of affected civilians, including those who exercise their right to freedom of expression by seeking, receiving and disseminating information by different means, online as well as offline, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
“Recognizing the important role of international humanitarian law, and international human rights law as applicable, in protecting journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflicts,
“Further recognizing that States bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of their citizens, as well as individuals within their territory as provided for by relevant international law,
“Recalling the right to freedom of expression reflected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 (“the Universal Declaration”), and recalling also the right to freedom of expression in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1966 (“ICCPR”) and that any restrictions thereon shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary on the grounds set out in paragraph 3 of Article 19 of the ICCPR,
“Deeply concerned at the frequency of acts of violence in many parts of the world against journalists, media professionals, and associated personnel in armed conflict, in particular deliberate attacks in violation of international humanitarian law,
“Emphasizing that there are existing prohibitions under international humanitarian law against attacks intentionally directed against civilians, as such, which in situations of armed conflict constitute war crimes, and recalling the need for States to end impunity for such criminal acts,
“Bearing in mind that impunity for crimes committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflict remains a significant challenge to their protection and that ensuring accountability for crimes committed against them is a key element in preventing future attacks,
“Recognizing that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel 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,
“Reaffirming its condemnation of all incitements to violence against civilians in situations of armed conflict, and condemning the use of the media to incite violence, genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law,
“Recalling that States Parties to the Geneva Conventions have an obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed a grave breach of these Conventions, and an obligation to try them before their own courts, regardless of their nationality, or may hand them over for trial to another concerned State provided this State has made out prima facie case against the said persons,
“Further recalling the responsibility of all Member States to comply with their respective obligations to end impunity and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious violations of international humanitarian law and noting that the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern committed against civilians has been strengthened through the work on and prosecution of these crimes by the International Criminal Court, in accordance with the principle of complementarity to national criminal jurisdictions as set out in the Rome Statute, ad hoc and mixed tribunals and specialized chambers in national tribunals,
“Expressing deep concern at the growing threat to the safety of journalists, media professionals, and associated personnel posed by terrorist groups and strongly condemning incidents of killings, kidnapping and hostage taking committed by terrorist groups for any purpose, including raising funds or gaining political concessions, and expressing its determination to prevent kidnapping and hostage taking committed by terrorist groups and to secure the safe release of hostages without ransom payments or political concessions, in accordance with applicable international law,
“Stressing the contribution that peacekeeping operations and special political missions, where mandated, can make to international efforts to promote and protect human rights, and the protection of civilians, including journalists, media professionals, and associated personnel including through monitoring and reporting on violations and abuses as well as providing support for national Governments’ efforts to promote and protect human rights, and in order to strengthen the fight against impunity for crimes committed against civilians, including journalists, media professionals, and associated personnel,
“Recognizing the importance of a comprehensive, coherent and action-oriented approach, including in early planning, of protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict, stressing, in this regard, the need to adopt a broad strategy of conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict in a comprehensive manner in order to enhance the protection of civilians on a long-term basis, including by promoting sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights,
“Acknowledging the important role that regional and subregional organizations can play in ensuring the protection of journalists, media professionals, and associated personnel in armed conflicts and the importance of effective cooperation between the United Nations and those organizations,
“Further acknowledging the specific risks faced by women journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in conduct of their work, and underlining in this context the importance of considering the gender dimension of measures to address their safety in situations of armed conflict,
“Recognizing that the consideration of the issue of protection of journalists in armed conflict by the Security Council is based on the urgency and importance of this issue, and recognizing the valuable role that the Secretary-General can play in providing more information on this issue,
“1. Condemns all violations and abuses committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in situations of armed conflict, and calls upon all parties to armed conflict to bring an end to such practices;
“2. Affirms that the work of a free, independent and impartial media constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, and thereby can contribute to the protection of civilians;
“3. Recalls in this regard that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians and shall be respected and protected as such, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians. This is without prejudice to the right of war correspondents accredited to the armed forces to the status of prisoners of war provided for in article 4.A.4 of the Third Geneva Convention;
“4. Strongly condemns the prevailing impunity for violations and abuses committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in situations of armed conflict, which in turn may contribute to the recurrence of these acts;
“5. Emphasized the responsibility of States to comply with the relevant obligations under international law to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law;
“6. Urges Member States to take appropriate steps to ensure accountability for crimes committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in situations of armed conflict and through the conduct of impartial, independent and effective investigations within their jurisdiction and to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice;
“7. Recalls its demand that all parties to an armed conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel;
“8. Urges the immediate and unconditional release of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel who have been kidnapped or taken as hostages, in situations of armed conflict;
“9. Urges all parties involved in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as civilians;
“10. Recalls also that media equipment and installations constitute civilian objects, and in this respect shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals, unless they are military objectives;
“11. Recognizes the important role that education and training in international humanitarian law can play in supporting efforts to halt and prevent attacks against civilians affected by armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel;
“12. Affirms that United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions, where appropriate should include in their mandated reporting information on specific acts of violence against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in situation of armed conflict;
“13. Urges all parties to armed conflict to do their utmost to prevent violations of international humanitarian law against civilians, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel;
“14. Calls upon Member States to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for journalists, media professionals and associated personnel to perform their work independently and without undue interference in situations of armed conflict;
“15. Stresses the need to ensure better cooperation and coordination at the international level, including among the United Nations and relevant international regional and subregional organizations, including through technical assistance and capacity-building, with regard to promoting and ensuring the safety of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflicts;
“16. Encourages the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations to share expertise on good practices and lessons learned on protection of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflict and, in close cooperation, to enhance the coherent and effective implementation of applicable international humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions including those on protection of journalist, media professionals and associated personnel in situations of the armed conflict;
“17. Invites States which have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the additional Protocols I and II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions at the earliest possible date;
“18. Reaffirms that it will continue to address the issue of protection of journalists in armed conflict;
“19. Requests the Secretary-General to include consistently as a sub-item in his reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict the issue of the safety and security of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel, including the existence of measures to protect such individuals facing an imminent threat, and to ensure that information on attacks and violence against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel and preventative actions taken to prevent such incidents is included as a specific aspect in relevant country specific reports.”