Protecting journalists in conflict zones

Protecting journalists in conflict zones

A call for an action plan to protect journalists covering human rights violations.
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Journalism plays a key role in balancing powers in the political scene, especially when it comes to exposing human rights violations and abuses particularly in conflict areas.  However, in many countries, this mission often jeopardizes the interests of perpetrators, which put the safety of journalists on the line.

Journalists are key agents in defending human rights and exposing violations, in some cases, they are the first to shed the light on such abuses to aware the public opinion and to draw the attention of key human rights actors. Hence, they are often the initial target. They pay a high price for voicing this cause, as many of them are victims of extrajudicial execution, threatening, attacks, and even murder.

The implantation of UN resolutions concerning journalists safety and protection and combatting impunity remains ineffective. According to statistics, Reporters Without Borders has reported that at least 780 journalists and media workers were killed in their course of their work in the past ten years,  with 47 journalists killed in 2017 alone and 167 are currently imprisoned in connection with their journalistic work.

At the regional symposium on professional media on Thursday, November 2nd in Doha, marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, representatives from international and local press freedom organizations discussed global mechanisms to protect journalists and ending perpetrators impunity.

Speaking to DCFM Alison McKenzie Vice President of the Media Institute of the Caribbean said: "Unfortunately there are no official effective mechanisms or tools from the UN level to protect journalists. I think what needs to happen more is that governments should take the  threats that journalists report more seriously." 

However, Marion Desmurger, senior program assistant at the UNESCO office in Doha pointed out to a glimpse of hope. She said: "Reports are showing that more reports are coming from governments which is a positive sign because that is means that they are realizing the accountability that they have when a journalist is killed."

Pressing governments and holding officials responsible in front of the international community is a key to ensure the safety of journalists worldwide.

"There are processes to hold governments accountable for assaults against journalists to press governments. As part of an international action plan, UNESCO has a mandate to monitor countries where there have been recordings of journalists being killed. We follow up the judicial process to make sure there is no impunity" Desmurger added.

Moreover, journalists are often criminalized for investigating human rights violations; in fact, arbitrary legislation and measure are often used to prevent them from voicing the truth. In fact, press laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the Protection of Journalists should be amended to ensure that journalist would not be prosecuted for defamation.

"One of the things that organizations are calling for is pushing countries to get rid of criminal defamation to guarantee that journalists will not be prosecuted. Most countries who detain journalists are doing so because of criminal defamation or sedition" McKenzie added. 

All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2017

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