When a journalist is killed, it is a crime against a person and the freedom to inform
Finding security in unsafe passages : UN event on protecting journalists’ safety and rights - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 7 May 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank the International Federation of Journalists and the Communications Coordination Committee for the United Nations for organizing this important meeting, at a critical moment in time, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. A warm word of thanks and congratulations also to my colleague and friend from Belgium, Ambassador Bénédicte Frankinet, who delivered a very important key note. The presence today of so many States, NGOs and journalists, highlights the particular importance of the issue of the protection of journalists for us all, for the UN, and frankly for the world.
The protection of journalists is a top priority for France and France’s foreign policy. As Laurent Fabius, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated: “when a journalist is killed, it is a double crime: a crime against a person but also a crime against the freedom to inform and be informed”. Protecting journalists is therefore vital if we want to defend fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and freedom of the press. And for many reasons, we, the French, consider that we have a special responsibility in this fight.
For this very reason, in 2006, France proposed a resolution (resolution 1738) by which the Security Council decided to pay increased attention to the issue of protection of journalists in armed conflict. This was a major step forward, but we see today that we need to go further and to try to give teeth to this text.
As you all know, the challenge of the safety of journalists remains largely to be addressed. The year 2014 was particularly deadly: - if I am correct -69 journalists have been killed, sometimes in gruesome conditions. In 2015, 24 of them have already lost their life for exercising their job. We all have in mind the barbaric executions of journalists committed by Daesh. But many others journalists have been imprisoned, tortured, subject to intimidation, abductions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions…
That is why the international community needs to keep the issue of the protection of journalist high on its agenda. We must continue the fight.
One of the priorities I would like to insist on is the fight against impunity. Currently, perpetrators of crimes against journalists live in total impunity. 90% of those crimes are not prosecuted.
The primary responsibility in this area lies with the states, which must systematically investigate such crimes and prosecute the perpetrators. The International Criminal Court may also play a role. Under the Geneva Conventions, journalists are civilians; their murder may constitute a war crime under the Rome Statute. The texts are there, they should be implemented.
The General Assembly has recognized the gravity of the situation by adopting unanimously, last December, a resolution calling on Member States to investigate the violence against journalists and to bring offenders to trial. The proclamation of 2 November as the International Day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, in memory of the French journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, killed in Mali in 2013, is a powerful symbol, on which we must build together. Every year this day will be an opportunity to take stock of the situation and to mobilize the world in this fight, which is in many aspects, an existential fight for all of us.
The Security Council also has a particular role to play when it comes to protecting journalists in armed conflict in particular, and France will continue to raise this issue in the Council.
First, to act more efficiently, the Security Council must be regularly informed on the situation of journalists, through reporting from the Secretary-General or from the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Second, Security Council should more systematically condemn the murders of journalists, to pass the message that crimes against journalists are of particular gravity.
Third, Security Council must ensure that peacekeeping operations which have a protection of civilians mandate also ensure the protection of journalists, as civilians under threat.
The Security Council will hold a debate on the issue at the end of the month. This meeting will provide a new opportunity to reflect together on how to improve the protection of journalists.
Let me conclude by recalling that the freedom of information is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which French professor René Cassin took an important part. It is at the heart of any democracy. It is our shared responsibility to work towards the full realization of this freedom.
You can count on France’s strong and daily commitment for this vital cause. We will not give up.
I thank you.