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Opening Remarks by Ms. Kyung-wha Kang Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the panel discussion on the protection of journalists in armed conflict

Mr. President,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,  I am delighted to open this panel discussion on the protection of journalists in armed conflict.  I would like to thank and commend the Human Rights Council for placing this important issue high on its agenda and giving significant time for a substantive discussion.

This panel takes place against the backdrop of alarming reports of killings, harassment, intimidation or kidnapping of journalists, men and women, in situations of armed conflict. According to these reports, deliberate attempts to target journalists in areas of ongoing conflict are increasing.

War reporting is inherently dangerous. Indeed, it could arguably be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Still, out of sense of professional duty,  many journalists  and media professional make the courageous choice to go to conflict zones, so as to tell the world about the stories of armed conflicts and the human cost they entail.  Amidst the so-called “fog of war”, they play a vital role in keeping the world informed and ensuring that our responses are based on the facts and truths unfolding on the ground.

International law sets out clear provisions for the protection of journalists in armed conflict.  According to international humanitarian law, journalists in armed conflict should be considered as civilians and therefore be afforded the protection to which the civilians are entitled.  International human rights law guarantees the right to life, as well as the right to liberty and security of persons, as well as the right to freedom of expression, for all, including for journalists. . 

Despite these unequivocal norms, there continues to be a high number of abuses and crimes targetting journalists, which are committed with impunity, encouraging other abuses to follow suit.  This flaunting of  international norms highlights the need to take proactive measures to ensure that they will be fully respected and implemented. Translating them from aspiration into more effective action on the ground is a common challenge for the international community

Mr. President,

As a testimony to the importance of the issue, several United Nations bodies and other entities have addressed the issue of the protection of journalists in armed conflict.
 
As all are aware, the International Committee of the Red Cross has a mandate to protect civilians in armed conflict, including journalists. In its endeavours to make the rules that protect journalists known and respected, the ICRC plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of journalists. In addition, UNESCO has a specific mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom and has dedicated part of its work to the protection of journalists.

The Security Council has also pronounced itself on this issue: in 2006, it adopted a landmark resolution which condemned deliberate attacks against journalists and media professionals in situations of armed conflict and called upon all parties to put an end to such practices.

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and his predecessors have drawn the attention of the Human Rights Council to this alarming issue. And the Council has repeatedly expressed its concern that threats and acts of violence directed against journalists and other media workers in situations of armed conflict have increased and are not adequately prosecuted or punished.

Several civil society organizations have also taken initiatives to address the issue of protection of journalists in armed conflict. Reporters without Borders, the International News Safety Institute, the Press Emblem Campaign, to name only a few, have contributed significantly to the raising of the awareness of the international community in this context.

Mr. President,

Our efforts to strengthen the protection of journalists in armed conflict will not be effective if we do not take into account the views and needs of journalists and media professionals themselves.  Their accounts of personal experiences are crucial to our understanding of the challenges they face in conflicts zones and news rooms. .

The panellists whom we are privileged to have today will provide us with a rich array of observations and recommendations on ways to strengthen the protection of journalists in situations of armed conflict.  I am sure their views and approaches to the issue will strengthen the resolve of the  Human Rights Council in drawing the attention of the international community to the dangers faced by journalists in armed conflicts, and in developing  a common approach to this challenge, not only across United Nations entities, but in the international community as a whole.

I wish you a fruitful and constructive debate.

Thank you.