UN mulls means to better protect journalists

AFP , Saturday 14 Dec 2013

France and Guatemala will compile a list of concrete proposals to protect journalists, especially in war zones, the French UN ambassador said Friday after a meeting on the matter.

Gerard Araud said 76 members of the media have been killed on the job since the beginning of the year, particularly in Mali, Syria, Somalia and Pakistan, and that a number of others have been abducted.

"We will look at what is feasible, effective and acceptable," said Araud.

Ideas raised at the United Nations meeting -- presided over by France and Guatemala -- are to be compiled in a document.

The gathering was attended by various envoys to the UN Security Council. Arnaud is the panel's December chair.

The director-general of NGO Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, proposed creating a group of independent experts to monitor compliance by UN member states on their obligations vis-a-vis the press.

He also suggested that the International Criminal Court designate the act of targeting journalists a crime against humanity.

Protecting reporters from violence is inherent in multiple international accords including the Geneva Conventions and UN resolutions, but is not explicit, several participants said.

According to Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, "the murder of journalists is the most extreme form of censorship."

"The UN needs to get involved ... We need to find ways to better implement these international frameworks," he said.

Last month, the UN General Assembly declared November 2 an international day to protect journalists.

It marks the same day that French radio journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were killed by militants in Mali this year.

Anne-Marie Capomaccio, director of the Washington office of Reporters Without Borders, also attended the meeting and denounced "the trivializing of pressure and threats" against reporters, particularly in Africa.

In some countries, she said, journalists who follow rebel groups "are considered rebels" by the government and can be harassed for giving voice to opposition.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and UNESCO head Irina Bokova also participated in the meeting.

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