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International19 December 2006

France and Greece submit resolution on protecting journalists to UN security council

The French and Greek governments have submitted a draft resolution to the UN security council on the protection of journalists in war zones, they announced today at a news conference organised by Reporters Without Borders and the French foreign ministry at the Press Club of France in Paris.

French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the resolution aimed to “remind all parties to conflicts of their obligations as regards the protection and safety of journalists.” It also “reaffirms that states have an obligation to prevent crimes against journalists and, when such crimes are committed, to investigate, arrest those responsible and try them,” he said.

Voicing “optimism” about the rapid adoption of the resolution, which was submitted on 4 December, Douste-Blazy added: “It is now falls to the security council, which has considerable political authority, to take a stand on this central issue.”

Greece’s ambassador to France, Dimitrios Paraskevopoulos, said: “There seems to be a need for this resolution calling on all states not to leave attacks on journalists unpunished.” To this end, “governments must sign the first additional protocol to the Geneva conventions,” he added, referring to its specific provision for guaranteeing the protection of journalists.

Reporters Without Borders worked closely with the French foreign ministry on the drafting of the resolution. The organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard, pointed out that 139 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003 - more that twice the total killed in the Vietnam war - at least 81 journalists have been killed worldwide this year and 774 have been killed in the past 15 years, half of them in war zones.

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Among the participants at the news conference was French deputy Pierre Lellouche of the ruling UMP party, who is a member of a parliamentary commission that has been looking at the issue. “Sometimes it is Christmas, sometimes French parliamentarians can do something useful such as helping international humanitarian law to evolve,” Lellouche said. “I am proud that the machinery of government has also been effective,” he added. “This resolution will not solve everything, but it will move things along.”

Leading Algerian reporter Toufik Benaïchouche noted that 63 journalists have been killed in his country and called for the creation of a “European centre for journalists” so that journalists from other countries can have a brief respite when they are threatened in their own countries.

Florence Aubenas of the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur said there was “an urgent need to consider the implications of the new forms of conflict that endanger civilians more than the military.” She also said that journalists should not support the resolution just for reasons of self-interest: “We want to describe what happens to other people not what happens to ourselves. By protecting our own profession, we hope to protect others. This is our motive for wanting this resolution.”

TV presenter Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, who is the acting head of news at the French TV station TF1, added that journalists need “to resist the temptation to just look after their own profession and to resist the temptation to stop sending people to dangerous areas.”

In conclusion, Ménard thanked the French defence ministry for all its help and pointed out that Reporters Without Borders lends bullet-proof vests and helmets to freelancers and offers them insurance at a reduced rate.




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