By Jane Morse
During a July 17 debate at the U.N. Security Council, the United States condemned violence against journalists and called for their protection, especially as they report on armed conflicts.
“Impunity for violence against journalists must end,” said Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, acting permanent representative to the United Nations and chargé d’affaires for the U.S. Mission to the U.N..
“The United States endorses fully the 2012 U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity,” she said. “We encourage member states to enact its provisions and put in place voluntary protection programs for journalists operating in conflict areas.”
DiCarlo also called for a gender-sensitive approach when considering measures to address the safety of journalists, saying that women journalists are especially vulnerable to violence.
Under U.N. Resolution 1738, journalists operating in armed conflict areas are protected under international humanitarian law, DiCarlo said. She called on the U.N. secretary-general to increase the focus on the safety and security of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in reports on the protection of civilians and in reports on peacekeeping missions that have mandates that include civilian protection.
DiCarlo said the United States urges U.N. member states — especially those that contribute troops and police to U.N. peacekeeping missions — to ensure that their judicial officials, law enforcement officers and military personnel know their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law regarding the safety of journalists.
Journalists, DiCarlo said, play an “indispensable role” in focusing the world’s attention on conflict. But their jobs are becoming increasingly dangerous, according to U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.
Eliasson said more than 600 journalists have been killed in the past decade. “Just 10 days ago,” Eliasson said, “Somali TV journalist Libaan Abdullahi Farah was shot dead on his way home. This murder drew widespread condemnation. But Libaan’s assassination is not an isolated case.”
Eliasson said that last year in Syria alone, 41 journalists, including those who use social media, were killed. In Iraq and Afghanistan, 108 journalists have been killed since 2006.
“Let us remember,” Eliasson said, “that every time a journalist is killed by extremists, drug cartels or even government forces, there is one voice less to speak on behalf of the victims of conflict, crime and human rights abuses. … It is shocking and unacceptable that more than 90 percent of the assassinations of journalists go unpunished.”
Eliasson also emphasized that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, guaranteed in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of expression, Eliasson said, “depends on and is nurtured by independent and pluralistic media, the lifeblood of democratic and informed discourse and debate.”
As president of the U.N. Security Council for July, the United States convened the open debate on the protection of journalists to provide Security Council members the opportunity to express their views. This session was unique in that it was the first time that journalists briefed the Security Council in their capacity as media professionals.
Among the journalist who spoke were Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News; Mustafa Haji Abdinur, correspondent for Agence France-Presse; and Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, foreign correspondent for the British national daily the Guardian.
Kathleen Carroll, executive editor and senior vice president for the Associated Press, which has seen 31 of its journalists killed, also addressed the panel.
“Most journalists who die today,” Carroll said, “are not caught in some wartime crossfire; they are murdered just because of what they do.”
Carroll is also vice chair for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to the global defense of the press. CPJ, she said, has found that most murdered journalists — five in six — are killed in their own hometowns covering local stories, usually crime and corruption.
“They are attacked by people who know their work, and often know them personally,” Carroll said. Yet journalists, she said, represent the ordinary citizen.
“An attack on a journalist,” Carroll said, “is a proxy for an attack on the people, an attack on their right to information about their communities and their institutions.”