By Sadiya Hamza
UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council has a critical role in advancing the world body’s Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.
Ban said this in his remarks presented by UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, on Wednesday in New York, at the open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,: Protection of Journalists in Conflict Situations.
According to him, the issue is fundamentally about the right to information, protection of civilians, respect for human rights and not giving in to threats and intimidation from those who advocate and practice violence and intolerance.
He said “in recent years, we have seen a deeply troubling rise in the number of journalists killed in conflict situations.’’
He added that of the 593 cases of killing of journalists between 2006 and 2013, a total of 273 occurred in conflict zones.
Ban said journalists were also being increasingly targeted and subjected to threats by criminal or terrorist groups, with the blatant intention to silence them.
Recent killing of journalists had been given extensive and welcome attention around the world, including brutal murders of Western media representatives in Syria.
The UN boss said around 95 per cent of the killings of journalists in armed conflict concerned locally-based journalists, receiving less media coverage.
He said ensuring the safety of journalists required a multi-faceted approach.
Ban added that the challenges of journalists reporting from armed conflict situation may not be the same as for those who were engaged in other forms of reporting.
“The plan is being piloted in several countries, including Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan and South Sudan.
“Members of the Security Council have a critical role in advancing this agenda.
“First is by unequivocally and consistently condemning the killing of journalists in conflict situations, including locally-based journalists.
“Secondly, we should continue to hold regular debates on the protection of journalists.
“I encourage you to continue to hear journalists, civil society organisations and relevant UN and regional mandate holders.
“The Security Council-authorised missions should be encouraged to look into the safety of journalists and media workers as part of protection of civilians’ mandates.’’
He said that encouraging the Security Council-authorised missions will ensure freedom of expression and the safety of journalists which are integral parts of human rights and justice reforms.
He noted that by endorsing and supporting the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
Ban said “the UN System will continue to assist the Security Council in all efforts by bringing to your attention, situations of concern in this area in a timely and proactive manner.
“It is our shared responsibility to protect the voices that alert, warn and inform on situations threatening international peace and security.
“We know that armed conflicts not only endanger the life and safety of journalists, it also limits the free flow of information, eroding rule of law and democracy.
“We should recall that conflict can easily be exacerbated in an environment that stifles freedom of expression.
“Conflict and insecure environments must never be a pretext for silencing journalists. It is precisely in these situations where the voices of the voiceless and reports from the frontlines must be heard loud and clear.’’
Ban said female journalists may face challenges different from their male colleagues.
“Also, corruption, intimidation, reprisals and weak judicial systems, all of which contribute to impunity must be tackled if we are to deal with the roots of the problem.
“The same goes for the basic need for the culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law.
“Let us remember that the safety of journalists is of concern in non-conflict zones as well.
“Ensuring their protection can be of the essence if we are to prevent conflict and human rights violations.’’
Threats and attacks, he said, were committed by both state and non-State actors, often to silence journalists documenting information or opinions on subjects perceived as off-limits.
Ban said these include human rights violations, political repression or drug trafficking. (NAN)
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