IFJ Hails United Nations Action to Curb Attacks on Journalists

Please note in paragraph four a correction of a pronoun referring to the foreign minister of Greece, who is a woman. The original release referred to the foreign minister as "he" instead of "she".  A corrected version follows.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomed a move by the United Nations Security Council to press governments to give more protection to journalists in conflict zones and to fully investigate cases where media staff are killed under fire.

A draft U.N. resolution sponsored by France and Greece and backed by Britain, Slovakia and Denmark that condemns all attacks targeting journalists and media workers in armed conflicts and urges combatants to respect the professional independence and rights of members of the media was circulated earlier this week.

"After more than two years of hard campaigning we find the international community paying proper attention to our demands for an end to impunity in the killing of journalists," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, which drafted an original text for a UN resolution that was presented to Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, just over a year ago. The campaign was initiated after the IFJ expressed concern that media staff had been omitted from an earlier UN resolution adopted by the Security Council in the aftermath of the devastating attack on the UN offices in Baghdad in which 22 staff members died.

White praised concerted action by IFJ unions, supported by the International News Safety Institute and the European Broadcasting Union, which had ensured the issue was placed on the agenda of the Security Council. IFJ unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the United States and across the European Union have taken up the issue with their national governments and two months ago the foreign minister of Greece -- one of the countries leading the push for a resolution -- promised the country's journalists she would put the matter before the Security Council.

"This is an unprecedented and important recognition of the dangerous crisis facing media staff in the field," said White. "This year is touching record levels in terms of media deaths and at least 163 journalists and media staff have been killed in Iraq alone over the past three years. Many of these deaths remain unexplained and uninvestigated."

The resolution, if adopted, would be the first by the U.N. Security Council that solely addresses the issue of journalists in conflicts. It would say that, due to the existing prohibitions in international humanitarian law, attacks intentionally directed against journalists covering armed conflicts are war crimes.

White said that journalists and their unions want to see this expression of international concern translated into practical action to eliminate the culture of impunity that has accompanied the rising media death toll.

"The media industry is speaking with one voice on this crisis," said White. "Now we want to see governments taking their responsibility to ensure that every incident of violence against media is investigated. Where people, including soldiers in the field, are guilty of breaching international law they must be brought to justice," he said.

The IFJ says it will now press for the issue of journalists' safety to be brought into the mainstream of media development concerns, particularly in seeking solutions to regional conflicts and in reconstruction efforts in conflict zones.

"The International News Safety Institute is a campaign that brings together all sides of the media in a concerted effort to reduce the violence against media, to isolate rogue elements who are targeting journalists and to ensure that the risks facing media staff are properly tackled both within and outside media. Governments must now support these efforts and show that their commitment to free and independent journalism goes beyond the fine words of a much-needed declaration of concern."

The campaign to have the resolution adopted was taken up by the IFJ, INSI and the EBU in a rare example of co-operation and joint action in an industry notoriously divided.

"We are delighted that this partnership is working," said White. "It proves that standing together media allies can push the international community to do more."

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide