New York, New York (RSF) – Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) secretary-general Christophe Deloire hailed the council’s unanimous adoption today of an historic resolution on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts. At the same time, he called for concrete measures to ensure implementation of international law on the safety of journalists.
“This is an historic day for the protection of journalists and also, we hope, for freedom of information,” Deloire said, addressing the ambassadors of the Security Council’s 15 member states and around 50 other United Nations member states. The UN secretary-general, for his part, paid tribute to RSF’s work.
Today’s 2222 (2015) resolution is the first that the Security Council has adopted on this crucial subject since Resolution 1738 in 2006.
Deloire was one of three people who were invited by the Security Council’s Lithuanian president to brief the meeting. The others were UN deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson and Mariane Pearl, the widow of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered in Pakistan in 2002.
For the first time, a Security Council resolution refers to the right to freedom of expression as envisaged in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The resolution, for which RSF made recommendations, affirms “that the work of a free, independent and impartial media constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, and thereby can contribute to the protection of civilians”
It calls on states to fulfill their obligations as regards the protection of journalists during armed conflicts and makes it a requirement for UN peacekeeping operations to provide regular reports on the safety of journalists.
In his address, Deloire called for the creation of mechanisms for monitoring compliance by member states with their obligations under international law as regards the safety of journalists.
“Although the UN Security Council, General Assembly, Human Rights Council and UNESCO are all clearly working on the protection of journalists, more than 700 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the past ten years,” Deloire told the meeting.
“How many more journalists will have to be killed before the UN resolutions are implemented? It is time to take concrete action, in particular, by appointing a special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists.”
On combatting impunity for crimes of violence against journalists, Deloire urged the Security Council to refer the situations in Syria and Iraq, especially crimes against journalists, to the International Criminal Court, as RSF already requested in a letter to the UN secretary-general on 27 April.
A total of 45 journalists and around 130 netizens have been killed since the start of the conflict in Syria, while more than 15 journalists have been killed since 2013 in Iraq.
Journalists are deliberately targeted by the various parties to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. They are kidnapped, killed or beheaded. They are the victims of murder, torture or mistreatment. They are taken hostage or detained arbitrarily. All these acts can be regarded as war crimes under the provisions of article 8 of the Rome Statute.
“It is vital that the Security Council should continue to treat the protection of journalists as a priority and that it should extend the scope of the protection to non-professional as well as professional journalists and to peacetime as well as wartime,” Deloire said.
“Let us not forget that most journalists who are killed in the course of their work or in connection with their work are killed in countries said to be ‘at peace,’ countries where the most appalling abuses are perpetrated by government thugs, men and women in positions of power, mafia godfathers and so on. One day you will have to address this. One day, the Security Council will have to assign obligations to states that are not limited to armed conflict situations.”