NEW YORK CITY: The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) held a open debate on the protection of journalists in conflict zones.
The open debate saw the participation of nearly 50 Member States, and was the first time that journalists were invited to address the Council, according to the United Nations Information Center website.
Four prominent international journalists—Mustafa Haji Abdinur (Agence France-Presse), Richard Engel (NBC), Kathleen Carroll (Associated Press/Committee to Protect Journalists) and Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (The Guardian)—addressed the Council in the session initiated by the United States which holds the rotating Council presidency this month.
Abdinur, a prize-winning Somalian correspondent, said he was a “dead man walking” because of the dangers he faces covering his own country.
“In showing my face to you and the world, I increase the threat of becoming attacked when I go back home. But I am a journalist. They may call me ‘a dead man walking,’ but I report the news,” he said.
In 2006, the Security Council passed Resolution 1738 that called for the protection of journalists in conflict. However, journalists continue to be killed at alarming rates.
“In the past decade, more than 600 journalists have been killed while exercising their critical role and service in society,” Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson told the Security Council. He also briefed them on the role of the Unesco-initiated United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
Eliasson added that the Security Council could also play “an important role by reacting to and standing up against suppression of media freedom wherever and whenever it occurs. When journalists are killed, information about threats to international peace and security is often buried.” He added that “journalists also are at grave risk in many non-conflict situations around the world.”
Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN criticized failures to prosecute those who kill journalists, saying that the culture of impunity had to end. “In countries where justice for these crimes is left unaddressed, there is clear evidence that systematic violence against the press recurs year after year.”
One message that resonated in the Council debate was the vital role of journalists in overall peace and security.
“The basic rationale is that protecting free media is a prerequisite for freedom of expression and democracy. It is also relevant for the pursuit of peace and security, as well as development,” said Eliasson.
He noted that, freedom of expression and access to independent media and information had been highlighted in the report of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Kathleen Carroll, senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press said that an attack on a journalist is a proxy for an attack on people’s rights to information about their communities and their institutions.