Statement by H.E. Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict
We learned with interest about the initiative of the United States delegation to return to a discussion of one of the aspects of the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, namely, the protection of journalists. We would like to thank Deputy SecretaryGeneral Eliasson and the other briefers for their very interesting statements, which are a cause of concern.
In our view, instances of violence against journalists in armed conflict are unacceptable. Media professionals in complex military and political situations are providing an important function by informing the international community of the status of events, including humanitarian issues and the suffering of civilian populations. In the context of continuing armed conflicts, journalism has earned itself a reputation as one of the most dangerous professions. It is no coincidence that journalists, who are considered to be civilians under international humanitarian law, have a similar level of protection in armed conflict.
The primary responsibility in this area is borne by the warring parties. One of the major tasks of the international community and regional organizations is to assist national efforts in this area. At times, opinions are expressed about the wisdom of including additional international legal standards on the status of journalists and about reviewing their status. There are already legal norms and standards in place in that regard. Priority should be given to compliance with the relevant standards of international humanitarian law and to having States not yet party to existing international legal instruments accede to them.
It is clear that all attacks on journalists are unacceptable. Issues pertaining to the activities of journalists are already on the agenda of various international organizations and bodies. The topic is among the priorities of UNESCO, which is the main entity for considering the whole host of issues related to the safety of journalists. The Human Rights Council deals with the human rights element of journalistic activity. There is active work being carried out in this area by many regional organizations. The resulting division of labour facilitates ensuring the effective functioning of the relevant structures.
Against that backdrop, we believe that the task of the Security Council is to focus on issues having to do with ensuring the safety of journalists in the context of protecting civilians in situations of armed conflict. An important contribution in ensuring the safety of media professionals in extreme conditions is resolution 1738 (2006), which is the Council’s basic document on the topic. In spite of measures being taken by the international community, the situation with regard to ensuring the safety of journalists could nevertheless be improved. Their rights are sometimes completely ignored, and their lives and health are unjustifiably at risk.
We saw clear violations of international law and the needs of journalists in missile strikes in Belgrade in 1999 and Tripoli in 2011. Those strikes led to casualties and the destruction of the equipment necessary for journalists to carry out their professional duties. Paragraph 3 of resolution 1738 (2006) directly states that the equipment of the media are civilian objects, and therefore should not be subject to attack.
Information from journalists concerning the actual events in areas of armed conflict has been noted by various United Nations bodies. Therefore, information concerning attacks in Libya have been taken up by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and have been the subject of their investigations. Information on the matter was also included in the most recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council. However, we have not yet received an answer in that serious investigation.
We can learn a great deal from the media that is of importance to the work of the Security Council. In recent times, we learned a lot about the illegal smuggling of weapons from Libya into Syria, as well as about violations of the weapons embargo with regard to Libya. The Sanctions Committee is aware of that information. It is important that the work be completed.
When dealing with the protection of journalists in situations of armed conflict, we also cannot forget the precautionary measures that should be observed by the representatives of the media themselves so as not to be subject to unjustified risk for themselves, their escorts and colleagues. We should also consider the responsibility for observing an internal code of contact by the correspondents and their superiors who send into areas of hostilities. Excessive pursuit of a scoop to the detriment of common sense in armed conflict can be highly dangerous. Of course, journalists as well as diplomats must comply with the laws of the host country.