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Arria Formula Meeting on Protecting Journalists

Tomorrow (13 December) Security Council members will hold an Arria formula meeting on the protection of journalists that will be co-chaired by Ambassador Gérard Araud (France) and Ambassador Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala). Arria formula meetings are informal gatherings which enable Council members to interact with civil society and NGOs to exchange views within a flexible procedural framework.

Rosenthal is expected to open the meeting with some introductory remarks, followed by presentations by six speakers: Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO; Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the ICC; David Rohde, investigative journalist for Thomson Reuters; Christophe Deloire, Director General of Reporters Without Borders; Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression; and Anne-Marie Capomaccio, Head of the Office of Radio France Internationale in Washington. Following these presentations, Council members, other member states and NGOs will have the opportunity to make brief interventions. If sufficient time is available, there may also be an opportunity for the panelists to respond to any questions posed by member states and NGOs during their interventions. Araud is expected to make closing remarks.

The purpose of the meeting is to take stock of the implementation of resolution 1738, which focused on the protection of journalists and other related personnel in armed conflict, and to engage with journalists and other related personnel who operate in dangerous conditions in both conflict and non-conflict settings. Several Council members are concerned that since the adoption of this resolution in December 2006, violence against media personnel continues to be a major challenge. Also of concern is the lack of success in holding the perpetrators of this violence accountable. In a concept note circulated in preparation for the Arria formula meeting, France and Guatemala noted for example that there is a 90 percent impunity rate for such crimes.

Council members may be interested in discussing concrete measures that can be taken to help address the dangers faced by journalists. Towards this end, the concept note poses three main questions focusing on: how to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists; how to strengthen implementation of norms and mechanisms to protect journalists; and how to enhance the protection of journalists in non-armed conflict settings.

There is widespread support among Council members for the protection of journalists, especially in light of the high rate of violence against them in various regions in recent years. On 17 July the Council considered this issue, holding an open debate under the US presidency that featured presentations by four prominent media professionals: Mustafa Haji Abdinur, a reporter with Agence France-Presse; Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, foreign correspondent with The Guardian; Kathleen Carroll, Senior Vice-President and Executive Editor of the Associated Press and Vice-Chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists; and Richard Engel, Chief Foreign Correspondent of NBC News. Although there was no formal outcome to the open debate, several Council members expressed their dismay with the levels of violence against journalists in situations on the Council’s agenda, particularly Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. Many also raised the challenge of impunity among the perpetrators of this violence.

Tomorrow’s Arria formula meeting takes place against the backdrop of continued assaults of journalists since the 17 July open debate. For example, the concept note begins by mentioning the kidnapping and murder of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November. There has also been a spate of abductions in Syria of foreign journalists by Al Qaida-affiliated groups in recent months. According to some Council members, such incidents underscore the importance of the Council’s engagement with the protection of journalists.

While there is large-scale concern in the Council about the protection of journalists, one issue that remains sensitive with some Council members is whether discussion of the safety of journalists should only be discussed within the context of conflict-situations, or be broadened to include non-conflict environments as well. France and Guatemala intend to widen the range of tomorrow’s meeting to include non-conflict situations, but some members appear to have reservations about broadening the scope of Council engagement in this way. For example, in the 17 July open debate, Russia emphasised that the Security Council should focus strictly on “ensuring the safety of journalists in the context of protecting civilians in situations of armed conflict.” It is however possible that these different views among members may be muted in tomorrow’s discussion, given that this is not a formal Council meeting.

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