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Journalists should adhere to 'strict neutrality, impartiality' to ensure protection, says India

United Nations, May 28 (IANS) Journalists should “maintain strict neutrality and impartiality” when covering conflict situations so that the countries they operate in can ensure their safety and, for their part, governments should not put arbitrary restrictions on reporters, according to India.

Speaking Wednesday at a session of the Security Council devoted to protection of journalists covering armed conflicts, India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji spoke of the changing nature of threats that now come from terrorists. He said the Council “needs to act robustly” in defending journalists and compel governments to act against terrorist groups.

The Council should use law and the information it has “to make member States act against such non-state actors,” he said. “The Council should assist those member states who may require assistance to strengthen their national capacities to take such action.”

Governments “must put in place mechanisms for protection of journalists and their equipment especially where their whereabouts and coordinates have been provided in advance and deter from arbitrary restrictions unless there is a dire need,” he said.

India’s constitution and laws, Mukerji said, “safeguard freedom of expression and functioning of free media, online as well as offline, in building inclusive and peaceful knowledge societies and democracies.”

The Council adopted a resolution calling on all nations as well as parties to conflicts to create a safe environment for journalists and condemned the impunity for attacks on them. Highlighting the importance of a free and impartial media for the protection of civilians, the unanimous resolution said that journalists should be given the protection due to civilians in conflict situations as long as they did not do anything to compromise their status.

The Council session on protecting journalists came as media workers are under increasing deadly pressure from terrorists. In the past year the world witnessed the grisly beheading of US and Japanese journalists that the Islamic State publicised through videos.

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 27 journalists have been killed this year and 61, including one each from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, last year.

The day-long session of the Council also heard from Mariane Pearl, the widow of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped in Karachi by “The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty” and beheaded.

“Murder is the ultimate source of censorship,” she said.

The “true acts of courage” of journalists, she said are motivated by “the profound will to enlighten mankind, to go beyond the obvious, to fight preconceived ideas, to battle the corruption and the greed that are crippling our societies.”

Mariane Pearl also spoke of the dangers journalists faced from governments, both through arrests and surveillance. “Mass surveillance by some Security Council member states puts journalists and their sources at risk, undermining the trust and confidentiality vital to quality journalism,” she said. “And an increasing number of countries are now using anti-terrorism laws to muzzle the press even further.”

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