UNSC highlights the need to protect journalists

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yesterday the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a debate on the protection of journalists working in conflict zones. The discussion featured UNSC member states and noted members of the press, and highlighted the challenges in providing protection for press working in areas of war and conflict.

The safety of journalists is a serious concern for CJFE. As we noted earlier this year, 2012 is considered to be one of the deadliest years on record for journalists. This has been partly attributed to the deadly conflict in Syria, but is also due to the culture of impunity in countries where journalists are not afforded adequate protection, such as Mexico, Somalia and Pakistan.

“There is a sense of immunity for killing a journalist.” - Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, journalist, the Guardian

The problem of impunity was a recurring theme within the UNSC discussion. Without adequate judicial systems and protection mechanisms, a culture of impunity fails to punish journalists’ attackers. This allows the assailants to act with no fear of repercussions for their actions. Threats and attacks become a regular way of silencing journalists and individuals who dare to challenge the status quo.

“In showing my face to you and the world, I increase the threat of becoming a target when I go back home.” - Musfafa Haji Abdinur, journalist, Radio Simba and Agence France Presse

As a challenge to providing the protection that journalists need, the challenge of how to define a journalist in the increasingly complex relationship between journalism and activism was also addressed in the discussion. Since cameras are now found in almost everyone’s hands, NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel noted the difficulty in differentiating between journalists, activists, protesters and rebels.

“There are bloggers, there are tweeters, there are freelancers who see themselves as activists, there are freelancers who join rebel groups ...and carry guns. So if the discussion is about protecting journalists, you have to first decide who gets that protection? Who deserves it, and who forfeits it?” - Richard Engel, foreign correspondent, NBC

However, one message remained consistent throughout the discussion: protecting journalists is critical. It is by no means an easy feat, but the information that journalists provide is worth protecting.

In Canada, it can be difficult to imagine why anyone would decide to become a journalist in a country where it is such a dangerous profession. However, instead of asking ourselves why they would become a journalist, we should be asking why they are at risk at all.

“Journalists should have the right to report the news without fear of reprisal, or being targeted.” – Representative of the United Kingdom

Learn more about ways that you can support the protection and safety of journalists. CJFE’s Journalists in Distress (JID) fund provides humanitarian assistance to journalists whose lives and well-being are threatened.

Additional Reading on CJFE

Journalists in distress: Stalled in exile
2012: A deadly year for free expression
The chill of impunity: A global problem
Jineth Bedoya Lima on the fight to end impunity

Additional resources and publications:

Associated Press | AP exec editor briefs UN Security Council on protection of journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists | Journalist security guide
UNESCO | United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Protection of Journalists
UN News Centre | Veteran journalists, UN deputy chief urge Security Council to do more to protect reporters

Watch the UNSC Discussion

Part 1:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, please view directly on the UN website

Part 2:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, please view directly on the UN website