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ARTICLE 19 and IFJ back new UN action on safety of journalists in armed conflicts

(ARTICLE 19/IFJ/IFEX) - 25 March 2010 - ARTICLE 19, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International News Safety Institute (INSI) have welcomed a draft resolution on protection of journalists in situations of armed conflict which has been proposed at the thirteenth session of the UN Human Rights Council by Bangladesh, Egypt and Mexico.

The draft resolution coincides with action at UNESCO, where a request was made for an inter-agency discussion to promote a UN-wide action plan on the safety of journalists.

The draft resolution recognises the "vital role played by the press in situations of armed conflict" and highlights "the large and increasing number of deaths and injuries among members of the press in armed conflict". It calls on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organise a panel discussion on the issue with "all concerned parties and stakeholders, including relevant press organizations and associations".

ARTICLE 19, IFJ and INSI welcome the spirit of the resolution, particularly the support from Mexico which has one of the highest rate of journalists' killings over the last three years. They are nevertheless concerned that the process suggested by the resolution (a panel discussion) is inappropriate in view of the gravity of the situation. The resolution also fails to make reference to, and build on, steps taken to date by the international community, and to enforce commitments by member states which are still to be implemented.

In 2006, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1738 calling on governments to protect journalists in armed conflict situations. The resolution, recalling the frequency of acts of violence, including deliberate attacks in many parts of the world against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflicts, called on all parties to put an end to such practices.

The Security Council demanded that all parties to an armed conflict must comply with their obligations under international law to protect civilians in armed conflict. It also emphasized the responsibility of States in that regard, as well as their obligation to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for serious violations. All parties in situations of armed conflict were urged to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as civilians.

Some four years later, the recommendations still have to be fully implemented. Over the past 12 years, more than 1,100 journalists and media staff have been killed in the line of duty. Almost none of these crimes have been prosecuted and impunity for crimes committed against journalists is especially high.

ARTICLE 19, IFJ and INSI call on the three sponsors and all member states to:
- Comply with their obligations under international law to protect civilians in armed conflicts and end impunity, as highlighted by UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) on violence against journalists, media professionals, and associated personnel in armed conflicts; and other international agreements and initiatives;
- Ensure that a future panel discussion on the topic focuses on the implementation of existing international agreements and commitments, with the view of identifying the gaps and problems with violence and impunity, and effective ways of addressing them.

ARTICLE 19, IFJ and INSI encourage broad participation in this process and accordingly offer their assistance to all interested parties.

To view the full text of the draft resolution, click here
Click here to read the text of UN Security Council resolution 1738

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