GENEVA / WASHINGTON / VIENNA / PRETORIA,1 September 2014 – Recent attacks, ongoing kidnappings, and arbitrary and unjustified incarcerations of journalists around the world must be condemned and opposed by the international community, a group of international freedom of expression rapporteurs* said today.
“The prevailing impunity for attacks on civilians, including journalists, encourages perpetrators to believe that they will never be held to account for their grave crimes,” the rapporteurs warned. “We call for improved international protection for anyone engaged in journalism, especially during conflict situations.”
“Journalists must be ensured the highest degree of protection by States and non-state actors,” the rights experts stated, expressing outrage at the recent execution of James Foley by the ISIS group, and deep concern by the fate of at least seven other journalists and members of the media believed to be held captive by ISIS in Syria.
The international rapporteurs on freedom of expression stressed that “journalists covering armed conflicts do not lose their status as civilians; they are not participants in the conflicts they cover. As such, they continue to be protected by the applicable guarantees under human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
“Attacks against journalists covering conflicts victimize individuals first and foremost, but they also harm us all,” they said. “But attacks also deter and sometimes prevent journalists from exercising their right to seek and disseminate information. Attacks deprive all of us of the right to know and to access information about critical situations around the world.”
“It is a sad fact that violent attacks against journalists covering conflicts are common. In Syria alone, reports indicate over sixty journalists have been killed in the last three years. Journalists working in Ukraine and Iraq, for instance, are subjected to attacks, kidnappings and violence on a daily basis, and several journalists have been killed during the recent violence in Gaza,” the international rapporteurs said.
“We call for an open and committed dialogue among governments, non-state groups, journalists and other interested parties in order to strengthen protections to promote the safety and respect for those reporting on a conflict, especially to ensure that those responsible for such violence are held accountable.”
(*) The rapporteurs : The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr. David Kaye; the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Ms. Dunja Mijatoviæ; the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Ms. Catalina Botero Marino; and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Ms. Faith Pansy Tlakula.