UNSC Open Debate Protection of Journalists in Conflict Situations
NEW YORK, 27 May 2015
STATEMENT BY H.E. Karel J. G. van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, in the UNSC Open Debate on the Protection of Journalists in Conflict Situations
The Kingdom of the Netherlands would like to thank the Lithuanian Presidency of the Security Council for your initiative in hosting this important debate here today. In honor of the Lithuanian presidency this month, please allow me to thank you in Lithuanian: aciu ponia Prezidentas.
We welcome the adoption of the Security Council resolution this morning, which we proudly co-sponsored.
I would like to align my intervention with the statement made by the EU.
Please allow me to make three points today: on the importance of protecting journalists in conflict situations, on fighting impunity and responsibility of states to maintain a safe environment for the media.
Mr. President, freedom of expression is a top priority for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Freedom of the press is crucial in achieving the three ambitions of the Netherlands: Peace, Justice and Development.
(2. Importance of the protection of journalists)
Despite Security Council Resolution 1738, which condemned attacks against journalists in conflict situations, journalists, including bloggers are still all too often the target of aggression, harassment and arbitrary detention or even extrajudicial killings.
In the Netherlands, we remember in particular the 7 Dutch journalists who lost their lives in various conflict situations, while doing their job.
The role of journalists before, during and after conflict is indispensable. They play a critical role in reporting on events, revealing the horrors of war and spurring investigations of abuse. Journalists can help to create an atmosphere of tolerance through the gathering and dissemination of non-partisan information. Therefore, the role of media is crucial in promoting human rights, democratisation, peace, and conflict resolution.
It is vital that journalists are able to work freely, without undue interference and without fear, especially in dire situations such as Burundi at present. Overall, the role of journalists in countries affected by conflict is a unique one, involving great risks and personal sacrifices. In this context, there is a specific role for UN peacekeeping missions in the protection of civilians, including journalists. An example of this is MINUSMA, the peacekeeping mission in Mali, which we are closely involved in. Freedom of the press is a critical element in the integrated approach we pursue, combining diplomacy, defense and development.
Violent acts against journalists need to be prosecuted. Over the past decade, around 700 journalists have been killed worldwide for bringing news and information to the public. This is one journalist, every week. And even worse, 9 out of 10 of these cases go unpunished.
The impunity of violence against journalists affects press freedom in two principal ways. On the one hand, it perpetuates violence and can quite literally “kill the story”. On the other, impunity leads to a climate of self-censorship. Journalists, fearing for their own lives or for the lives of their families, refrain from covering certain stories – often the ones that need to be told the most.
This impunity needs to be addressed. In this regard, prosecution is the best prevention!
I applaud those UN member states who have responded to UNESCO’s request to provide an update of the status of the judicial inquiries conducted on each of the killings of journalists. We need to work together, with UNESCO, the UN as a whole and relevant NGOs, to tackle the issue of impunity.
(4. Responsibility of states to maintain a safe environment for the media)
Where free press is threatened and investigative and independent journalism is absent, corruption and illegal activity are allowed to flourish. Journalists deserve full protection. Not only in words, but also in deeds. In this regard, I would like to point out the importance of the OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) report produced last year on the PoC mandates in UN of peacekeeping operations, which highlights the need for further interventions to ensure adequate protection.
Mr. President, it is the responsibility of states to maintain a safe environment for the media and to investigate and to prosecute those responsible for planning and perpetrating violent acts against journalists.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands looks forward to collaborate with the UN and its member states to ensure better protection for these flag-bearers of freedom of expression and to end impunity. We remain your partner in Peace, Justice and Development.