Open debate of the Security Council on “The protection of journalists in conflict situations” in connection with the agenda item “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”
United Nations, May 27, 2015
We wish to thank the Lithuanian Presidency for convening this important and timely debate and congratulate it on the unanimous adoption of today’s resolution condemning all violations and abuses committed against journalists and strongly deploring impunity for such acts. I would also like to welcome and thank the distinguished journalists who have come to share with us their own personal experiences. Cyprus aligns itself with the statement delivered earlier by the European Union and wishes to make the following remarks in its national capacity.
We recall that the call for freedom of information came in one of the very first resolutions of the General Assembly. Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right, a cornerstone of all the freedoms and values promoted and defended by the United Nations. It is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and constitutes an essential pillar of any healthy society.
The freedom of the press is also enshrined in the ECHR whose Article 10 provides that:
- Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
It is thus incumbent on all Governments to respect the right of individuals to hold opinions without interference and the freedom of the press to collect, distribute, analyze and disseminate information without any kind of interference or fear of violence or persecution. It is impossible to have a genuinely democratic society without freedom of the media.
As journalists continue to be imprisoned and get killed in the four corners of the globe it is important to recommit ourselves to this very basic freedom and to fostering an independent and pluralistic media which is prerequisite to democracy, peace and development. As the UN Secretary-General stated in his Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 development agenda “press freedom and access to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association are enablers of sustainable development.”
2014 was another deadly year for journalists around the world. In total, as it has been reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, 60 journalists were killed globally in relation to their work with an unusual proportion of those killed, being members of the international press who had crossed borders to cover conflicts and dangerous situations all over the world. It is indicated that, reflecting the increasingly volatile nature of conflict zones in which journalists are often deliberately targeted, nearly one quarter of them killed this year were members of the international press which is double the proportion reported in recent years. The majority of the victims however still remain local press covering local stories.
About 68 percent of the journalists killed in 2014 covered politics, with the next deadliest beat for reporters being war, at 60 percent, followed by human rights, at 55 percent.
The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, the barbaric beheadings of journalists by ISIS and journalists killed while trying to cover a story in a conflict zone, show that the threat to journalists and free expression is not an isolated phenomenon but a global one and that indeed no place is really safe. It is for this reason that Governments should redouble their efforts and take measures aiming at preventing violence and at promoting a safe environment for journalists so that they can perform their duties freely and without fear. Attacks against press should be met with zero tolerance and all acts against the freedom of the media must be investigated swiftly and the perpetrators must be held accountable and be brought to justice. It is unacceptable that the majority of the assassinations of journalists have yet to be punished.
The United Nations as the embodiment of our fundamental freedoms, values and principles, can also play its part in the global efforts to promote protection of journalists, freedom of the press and putting an end to the regime of quasi-impunity of the perpetrators of acts of violence against journalists. In this regard the important role of the Security Council is especially highlighted in engaging actively and standing up against suppression of the freedom of media wherever and whenever it occurs.
In concluding let me state that Cyprus joins its voice with all those who fight for the prevalence of freedom of the press, for pluralism and unhindered access to information and for protecting journalists and their work, globally. It is time to move away from theoretical declarations and to get into concrete actions.