IFJ Welcomes “Historic Action” by United Nations as Killing of Media Staff Hits Record Levels

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed a ground-breaking decision by world leaders calling on all members of the United Nations to act over impunity in the killing of journalists just as 2006 is turning out to be the worst year on record for media casualties.

The United Nations Security Council yesterday unanimously adopted a resolution calling for more action to protect journalists in conflict zones. The decision reflects the crisis in Iraq where more than 60 journalists and media staff have died this year alone -- out of a record 163 media killings recorded by the IFJ during 2006.

“At last the international community has woken up to the crisis caused by targeting of media staff,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Now we want to see these fine words turned into action with the naming and shaming of countries that turn a blind eye to impunity in the killing of media workers and journalists.”

The IFJ congratulated the Greek government, which leaves the Security Council at the end of the year for having joined with France in leading the push on the Security Council for action over this issue. Although UN agencies like UNESCO have drawn attention to problems facing journalists over the years, this is the first time one of the main bodies of the United Nations has taken up the issue.

“This is an important breakthrough and recognises that the killing and targeting of journalists must stop,” said White. “We shall campaign now for action at regional and national level to reduce the risks to media staff and to bring the killers of journalists to justice.”

The campaign for a United Nations resolution was launched by the IFJ, which prepared a draft resolution almost two years ago. With the support of the International News Safety Institute and the European Broadcasting Union as well as national journalists’ unions, the campaign has lobbied Security Council members for action.

The draft resolution was presented to outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan a year ago at media conference alongside the UN Summit on the Information society. The breakthrough came in September when the Greek government took up the IFJ call after meetings in Athens.

The resolution as adopted "condemns intentional attacks" against journalists "and calls upon all parties to put an end to such practices."

The Security Council stresses that the deliberate targeting of civilians "may constitute a threat to international peace and security" and reaffirms its readiness "to consider such situations and, where necessary, to adopt appropriate steps."

The resolution "urges all parties involved in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as civilians."
It also urges warring parties "to do their utmost to prevent violations of international humanitarian law against civilians, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel."

The resolution emphasizes that there are existing prohibitions under international humanitarian law against attacks intentionally directed against civilians, including journalists, "which in situations of armed conflicts constitute war crimes."

To ensure that the Security Council regularly tackles the issue, the resolution asks the Secretary General to address the safety and security of journalists in his regular reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

“This last point is significant,” says White. “From now on we can expect the United Nations to identify and highlight those nations that are failing to protect journalists.”

More information: Aidan White, 0032 478 258 669