Welcoming Moves to Protect Aid Workers, IFJ Seeks UN Protection for Journalists in Iraq

The International Federation of Journalists today called on the United Nations to match its commitment to protection of civilians and aid workers in Iraq by providing equal levels of protection for journalists working in war zones.

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on the protection of UN workers serving in conflict areas following the bombing last week of the UN offices in Baghdad.

“We welcome this action, it is long overdue,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, “and we want to see the same commitment by states to the protection of journalists and media staff who are now among the most vulnerable of civilian groups in Iraq and other conflict zones.”

The Security Council resolution reconfirms the pressing need for all factions involved in armed conflict to adhere in full to the statutes of international and human rights law. The terms of the resolution referred to the protection and safety of members of UN operations and the necessity to punish crimes committed against such personnel.

The text also gives wider protection to all humanitarian aid workers, particularly those “involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission undertaken in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”

Where these groups are threatened or targeted in situations of armed conflicts it constitutes war crimes. The resolution says States must “end impunity for such criminal acts.”

“We cannot forget that journalists and media staff are among the most vulnerable groups in modern conflict,” said White. “There have been 17 deaths in Iraq already. All parties involved in armed conflict must protect journalists and recognize their status as independent, neutral observers.”

The IFJ says it is imperative that journalists be afforded a similar level of protection as humanitarian aid workers and UN staff. “Those who target, threaten or cause the death of journalists should be prosecuted and punished at the international level,” said White.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries