INSI Offers Big Powers Help to Implement New Pledge on Journalist Safety in War
Brussels, 30 November - The International News Safety Institute welcomes a public pledge by the United States, France and Britain to take action to ensure the safety of journalists in war zones and offers its help to translate the promises into reality on the ground.
"This is a welcome step in the right direction, and we would like to see more countries follow their lead," said INSI Director Rodney Pinder.
"We also hope the pledge will be followed by practical action where journalists are in danger. INSI holds itself ready to enter into discussions with any military about how to create practical measures on the ground in order to make these public pledges work in practice."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the three countries became the first signatories of the Geneva Conventions to accept a new nonbinding accord on protecting correspondents in conflict.
Under the agreement, countries are obliged to educate their soldiers and security forces in international humanitarian law. They also are supposed to preserve media independence and act against those who seriously violate the rights of journalists.
After an INSI-led approach by news organisations in the United Kingdom, the British Ministry of Defence last year for the first time recognised the issue of journalist safety on the battlefield. It inserted in its "Green Book" manual for military-media operations in wartime a pledge that British forces would never deliberately target the news media. It also recognised that correspondents should be free to move around the battle space.
"This was a practical step by a major military power -- to etch these safeguards in stone in its operations 'bible'," Pinder said.
INSI is concerned at the rising numbers of journalists and other media professionals being killed around the world, despite international expressions of concern. INSI records 171 deaths this year so far, exceeding the all-time record of 168 set in 2006.
The UN Security Council last December passed Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists in conflict. It called on countries to put an end to deliberate attacks on the news media in armed conflicts and urged an end to impunity for those who kill journalists. The Council of Europe passed a similar resolution, 1535, in January of this year, covering the safety of journalists in peacetime as well as war.
An INSI inquiry into the deaths of news media staff around the world counted 1,000 dead between 1996 and 2006.
The International News Safety Institute is a unique coalition of news organisations, journalist support groups and individuals exclusively dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous environments. It is a non-profit charity, supported by membership contributions which are channelled back into safety work.
INSI has now provided free safety training to more than 730 news personnel working in dangerous situations in 16 countries.
"We are ready to put that experience to practical use to help militaries understand the issues and the problems the news media face on the battlefield," Pinder said.