The Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October has led to intense fighting and an exacerbation of regional tensions, with very serious repercussions for the safety of journalists, UNESCO warned on Tuesday. The Organization is calling on all actors to respect and enforce international law without delay.
Since 7 October, UNESCO has already confirmed the deaths of 9 journalists in the line of duty during the Hamas terrorist attack and the Israeli military response in Gaza, but also on the Israeli-Lebanese border following the resurgence of tensions with Hezbollah. The death toll could rise further still: multiple reports are currently being examined by UNESCO as part of its mandate to promote the safety of journalists and combat impunity for the perpetrators of attacks.
"This is a dramatic toll. Never in a recent conflict has the profession had to pay such a heavy price in such a short space of time", said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO. "I call on regional and international actors to take immediate action to ensure that international law is respected. Journalists should never, under any circumstances, be targeted. And it is the responsibility of all actors to ensure that they can continue to exercise their profession safely and independently.”
International humanitarian laws, including UN Security Council Resolution 2222/2015, stipulate that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel covering conflict situations must be protected as civilians. The Resolution also recalls that media equipment, offices and studios are civilian and not military assets or properties and, as such, must not be the target of attacks or reprisals.
"In wartime, the work of journalists is absolutely vital. It gives the impacted populations access to reliable, important information, which can be critical to their safety. It also provides the international community with reports of the real situation on the ground", Audrey Azoulay underscored.
UNESCO promotes the safety of journalists through global awareness-raising, by providing training and tools, as well as through a number of other measures, within the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
The Organization manages the Observatory of Killed Journalists, an online database that provides information on all the murders of journalists around the world, and on the status of judicial investigations into the deaths of all journalists and media professionals recorded by UNESCO since 1993. /BGNES