The United Nation (UN) Security Council last month held an open debate at the UN headquarters in New York on the protection of journalists in conflict zones, amid an escalation in attacks against journalists around the world.
The one-day meeting brought speakers from more than 30 countries joined by journalists to discuss the issue, with the majority stressing the need for greater protection for journalists.
One of notable journalists who spoke at the open debate held on July 17, was Mustafa Hajii Abdinur, an award-winning Somalia correspondent for the French news agency, AFP, who is well known in his country as much for his news reports as for the dangers he faces because he is a journalist.
Abdinur said: “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 stressed that “Without a free press, there can be no freedom for a country,” adding that when a journalist is killed, “the news dies too”.
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.
Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, told the Security Council that “In the past decade, more than 600 journalists have been killed while exercising their critical role and service in society.” He also briefed Council on the role of the UNESCO-initiated United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
According to Eliasson, 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,” adding that “journalists also are at grave risk in many non-conflict situations around the world”.
Eliasson argued that “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.”
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.
Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, faulted failures to prosecute those who kill journalists, saying that the culture of impunity had to end.
Ambassador Grant insisted that “In countries where justice for these crimes is left unaddressed, there is clear evidence that systematic violence against the press recurs year after year.”
Senior Vice President and Executive Editor of the Associated Press, Kathleen Carroll, also addressed the Security Council, saying that an attack on a journalist is a proxy for an attack on people’s rights to information about their communities and their institutions.