Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Wittig at the Arria Meeting on "Protection of Journalists"
"Thank you, co-chairs,
I thank France and Guatemala for organizing this debate. It is important and timely. I also thank the panelists for their insightful briefings and personal commitment to the protection of journalists. Just a couple of comments and two specific questions:
When more and more journalists are threatened, injured or even killed, we cannot remain silent.
We owe journalists better protection. We owe them an end to a culture of impunity where only one in ten cases leads to a conviction.
Syria, Somalia, Iraq and Mali – many of the most dangerous countries for journalists also figure prominently on the Council’s agenda. A more systematic reference to media protection in UN mandates could help end impunity - as demonstrated in Security Council resolution 2093 on Somalia.
At the same time, protection concerns need to be better addressed through enhanced domestic legal frameworks, in particular criminal and media law. In these areas, German political foundations are already offering support and strategic advice to countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
While our debate today focuses on physical attacks on journalists, we should not forget that oppression of media and infringements on the freedom of speech often occur in more subtle ways. In a recent publication, the PEN Club talks of “rising digital repression”. Self-censorship due to unlawful surveillance has indeed become one of the biggest threats to the freedom of media today. In response, Deutsche Welle Academy is conducting online workshops for international journalists, enabling them to effectively protect themselves against targeted surveillance, online attacks or information theft.
As my Brazilian colleague has stressed, Germany and Brazil have put the protection of privacy in the digital age on the UN’s agenda and we look forward to a more in-depth discussion on protection gaps based on a report by the High-Commissioner of Human Rights next year.
Before I conclude, I would like to ask the panelists two questions:
1. In light of the Petrie-report on Sri Lanka, the UN leadership has recently drawn up an action plan entitled “Rights up front”. The goal - which Germany fully supports - is to enhance the UN’s early warning mechanisms for situations of grave human rights violations. Attacks against the media are often seen as early indicators of a deteriorating human rights situation. How can the UN in general, and UN country teams specifically, enhance their monitoring of such incidents and ensure a better follow-up?
2. Mr. LaRue, in your last report from April this year you stated that without strong legal protections in place, journalists risk being subjected to arbitrary surveillance activities. Which concrete steps should the UN take to better protect journalists from surveillance?
Thank you, co-chairs."