Reporters Without Borders welcomes UN’s commitment to tackle the issue of the safety of journalists and the issue on impunity and the recent adoption of its Plan of Action 2013-2014. The organization looks forward to participating in its implementation strategy, published on February 27th, aiming at reinforcing the following principles:
“The UN’s action in the area of the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity is based on the premise that its component institutions share a common interest in creating conditions conducive to journalistic safety. The rationale is that this safety is an important prerequisite for achieving freedom of expression, democracy, social development and peace – which are all central to UN bodies fulfilling their mandates”.
Reporters Without Borders believes that this process should notably lead to the implementation of the following measures:
1. Extend Statesʼ obligations to non-professional “news providers”
2. Extend Statesʼ obligations beyond war situations
3. Establish effective monitoring of respect for States' obligations.
1.Extend Statesʼ obligations to non-professional “news providers”
When governments try to impose a news blackout by censoring professional journalists, citizen journalists and netizens often step up to report and inform the public. By doing so, these citizens share the risks inherent to journalism and expose themselves to the same violence
Reporters Without Borders therefore asks for :
- the adoption by the United Nations of a resolution enshrining the obligation of States to protect all news providers, both professional and non-professional, on the lines of UN Security Council Resolution 1738
- a declaration from UNESCO enshrining the need for States to work for the protection and safety of citizen journalists and netizens and to combat impunity for those responsible for abuses against them.
2.Extend Statesʼ obligations beyond war situations
7 journalists and 6 citizen-journalists have been killed while reporting the news since the beginning of 2013. 143 were lost their lives in 2012. The majority of human rights violations against journalists take place outside of armed conflict situations. It is thus crucial to extend the range of member states obligations.
Reporters Without Borders therefore asks for:
- the adoption by the United Nations of a resolution under which the obligation of States to protect all news providers – enshrined so far as wartime is concerned by UN Security Council Resolution 1738 – is extended to situations of unrest, internal tension, public danger and peacetime.
3.Establish effective monitoring of respect for States' obligations
UN Security Council Resolution 1738, UNESCO’s Medellin Declaration and the Geneva Conventions do protect journalists and combat impunity for those responsible for physical attacks against them. The problem is not a legal void but the lack of contro of the respect of their obligations by member states.
Reporters Without Borders:
- Calls on States to investigate all acts of violence or fatal incidents in which journalists, media workers and related personnel are the victims, both those that take place on their territory and those that take place abroad when their armed forces or security forces may be involved.
- Requests clarification of the legal status of journalists who are “embedded” with military units in wartime in order to clearly establish whether, in the event of capture by the opposing party, they can benefit from the status envisaged in article 4.A.4 of the Third Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 on the treatment of prisoners of war, or if they just benefit from civilian status, it being understood that they may under no circumstances be treated as combatants.
- Points out that, even when used for propaganda purposes, news media cannot be regarded as military targets, as defined in article 52 § 2 of Protocol Additional 1 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and must therefore not be the targets of attacks or reprisals, unless they are being used for military purposes or to perpetrate or incite acts of genocide, crime against humanity, or grave violations of international humanitarian law.