Four journalists addressing the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday said world leaders should do more to protect reporters risking their lives in conflict situations with one foreign correspondent calling for protections similar to those afforded to international diplomats.
NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said that protecting journalists today is perhaps harder than ever “because you have to tackle the question of who is a journalist and who is an activist in a way that never existed before.”
“We’re all bloggers and punks and rebels with cameras. There is absolutely no respect for career journalists anymore,” said Engel, who was kidnapped by pro—regime gunmen in northern Syria and held for five days in Dec. 2012.
Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, vice chairwoman of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that reporters serve as the public’s eyes and ears in conflict situations by going to places and asking questions that most people cannot.
“An attack on a journalist is a proxy for an attack on the ordinary citizen, an attack on that citizen’s right to information about their communities and their institutions” and their world, she said.
The council invited journalists to brief members for the first time at the invitation of the United States, which holds the Security Council presidency this month. About 50 countries also spoke, a reflection of the global interest in the issue.
U.N. Deputy Secretary—General Jan Eliasson opened the meeting by decrying the killing of more than 600 journalists in the past decade. The Syrian conflict has become one of the deadliest for reporters, he said, pointing to 41 journalists killed there last year, including those using social media.
Iraqi Ghaith Abdul—Ahad, a foreign correspondent for The Guardian newspaper who was jailed in Libya and Afghanistan,
urged the council “to recognize journalists as part of a humanitarian effort to tell a story.”
“Many of you hate us, by the way, and I know that,” he said as diplomats burst into laughter. “It’s a sign that we’re doing our job properly if we’ve managed to piss you off. But there has to be some sort of balance. Just let us be there. Treat us as human beings. Just don’t kill us.”AP