Credits: All from AP - from left: Martin Mejia (Lima 2000), David de la Paz (Mexico City 1999), Jose Luis Magana (Mexico City 1998), Nasser Nasser (Ramallah 2002), Srdjan Ilic (Kosovo 1998) & Nasser Nasser (Ramallah 2000).
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May 7, 2010
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Britain challenges international community to end impunity for journalist killers
12 June 2007

London - The British government has challenged the world community to end impunity for the killers of journalists and other media professionals.

In an answer to questions in Parliament, the Foreign Office also reaffirmed that the deliberate killing of a journalist in conflict is a war crime.

Opposition Liberal Democrat spokesman for Media affairs Don Foster posted a series of written questions to the Foreign Office following consultation with the International News Safety Institute. INSI is seeking to ensure states follow the recommendations of UN Resolution 1738, passed by the Security Council last December, on the safety of journalists in conflict and the ending of impunity.

Following is a transcript of written questions from Foster and answers from Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells, who stated clearly at the outset that journalists "must be provided with the protection that they need under domestic and international law".

An INSI global inquiry into journalist deaths reported in March that 1,000 news media professionals had died covering the news over the past 10 years, that at least 657 were murdered and only one in eight of the killers was brought to justice (see http://www.newssafety.com/stories/insi/globalinquiry.htm).

Transcript:

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) correspondence and (b) discussions her officials have had with (i) European partners and (ii) others (A) regarding respect for the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel during armed conflict and (B) to obtain universal compliance with relevant obligations under international law to end impunity and prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international law against such persons; and if she will make a statement.

Kim Howells: The Government are committed to promoting freedom of expression worldwide and to defending and protecting the professional independence and right of journalists and media professionals to work without fear of reprisal during armed conflict. Journalists, media professionals and associated personnel must be provided with the protection that they need under domestic and international law.

Last month, at the World Press Freedom Day, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, Ian McCartney, reaffirmed our commitment to promote, defend, and protect the professional independence and right of journalists and media professionals to work without fear of reprisal. He also spoke out against impunity for crimes deliberately targeted against journalists. To intentionally direct an attack against civilians not taking direct part in hostilities is a war crime as defined under Article 8 (2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Under Article 79 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, journalists are regarded as civilians, provided they do not take action adversely affecting their status. These provisions provide journalists, media professionals and associated personnel with protection under international law. The key challenge for the international community is to ensure that international law is respected and enforced in order to provide a strong deterrent.

To assist this process, and raise awareness of the violence directed against journalists in conflict zones, the UK and its EU partners tabled UN Security Council Resolution 1738 in December 2006. The resolution condemned violence directed against journalists in conflict zones. It called on parties involved in conflict to stop deliberate attacks against journalists and respect them as civilians under international law.

In addition to our discussions over the tabling of Resolution 1738, we also discussed this matter with outside experts at the meeting of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Advisory Panel on Freedom of Expression on 24 May. We will continue to work with our EU partners and others to support efforts to promote and strengthen respect for international law, in particular in this area. An essential part of this is our strong support for the international criminal tribunals, including the ICC, which are a key part of international efforts to combat the crimes of most concern to the international community. We also discuss with EU partners and others joint action to protest at mistreatment of journalists.

Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures have been introduced to ensure the UK's compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, on the protection of journalists in armed conflict; and if she will make a statement.

Kim Howells: The Government are committed to promoting freedom of expression and the media worldwide. Journalists, media professionals and associated personnel must be provided with the protection that they need under domestic and international law.

To assist this process, and raise awareness of the violence directed against journalists in conflict zones, the UK and its EU partners tabled UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1738 in December 2006. The resolution condemned violence directed against journalists in conflict zones. It called on parties involved in conflict to stop deliberate attacks against journalists, and respect them as civilians under international law.

No specific new measures were required of the UK to implement UNSCR 1738. UK military forces are already required to act in compliance with the provisions of international humanitarian law relating to the protection of civilians, including journalists, to which the resolution refers.

Funding is available to support measures to protect journalists in armed conflict through a new human rights strand of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Global Opportunities Fund. For example, we have funded work in Colombia, with the International News Safety Institute, aimed at creating a culture of safety in journalism and reducing the risks journalists face at work.

The UK regularly speaks out when journalists are murdered, attacked or harassed. We raise cases with foreign governments, urging compliance with international law. For example, we engaged with the Russian Federation following the death of Anna Politkovskaya.

Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) correspondence and (b) discussions her Department has had since the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1738, on the protection of journalists in armed conflict, with States Parties to the Geneva Conventions, in order to ensure that (i) all necessary action is taken to search for persons who have committed, or ordered others to commit, breaches of those conventions and (ii) such people are tried before their own courts so that they are handed to another concerned state; and if she will make a statement.

Kim Howells: The Government are committed to promoting freedom of expression and the media worldwide. Journalists, media professionals and associated personnel must be provided with the protection that they need under domestic and international law.

In addition to tabling, with our EU partners, UN Security Council Resolution 1738 in December 2006, the UK will continue to work with partners to support efforts to promote and strengthen respect for international law, in particular in this area. An essential part of this is our strong support for the international criminal tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, which are a key part of international efforts to combat the crimes of most concern to the international community. We expect that the Red Cross Conference in Geneva in November will amongst other things discuss reaffirmation of international humanitarian law.

The UK regularly speaks out when journalists are murdered, attacked or harassed. We raise cases with foreign governments, urging compliance with international law. For example, we engaged with the Russian Federation following the death of Anna Politkovskaya.

Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) correspondence and (b) discussions her Department has had with (i) European partners and (ii) others to seek the earliest possible compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, on the protection of journalists in armed conflict; and if she will make a statement.

Kim Howells: We have had no specific discussions with European partners and others on compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1738. Compliance is the responsibility of UN States. We do continue to discuss wider matters of international humanitarian law, under which journalists are covered, and to take joint action on individual cases.

Foster also posed two questions to the Ministry of Defence about its actions in support of journalist safety:

Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) correspondence and (b) discussions his officials have had with (i) NATO partners and (ii) others (A) on respect for the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel during armed conflict and (B) to obtain universal compliance with obligations under international law to end impunity and prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international law against such persons; and if he will make a statement.

Adam Ingram (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence): Her Majesty's Government are committed to promoting freedom of expression worldwide and to defending and protecting the professional independence and right of journalists and media professionals to work without fear of reprisal during armed conflict. Although we have had no recent correspondence on these matters with NATO partners or others, we work with them and others to support efforts to promote and strengthen international law. An essential part of this is our strong support for the international criminal tribunals which are a key element of international efforts to combat the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures have been introduced by his Department to ensure the UK's compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, on the protection of journalists in armed conflict; and if he will make a statement.

Ingram: UK armed forces protect journalists in the same way they protect civilians in theatre, provided they do not take action adversely affecting their status under international law. This is enshrined in our instructions on the practical arrangements for enabling correspondents to report from operational theatres and in the training provided to our personnel.

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