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World Press Freedom Day/protection of journalists in armed conflicts

Published on May 8, 2012
Speech by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Deputy Spokesman to the United Nations¹

New York, May 3, 2012

Thank you to everyone for participating in this event.

The discussions have been productive. The quality and intensity of today’s debates attest to the merits of UNSCR 1738 and to the fact that the Security Council was right to sanction the international community’s attachment to press freedom and the protection of journalists.

This was repeatedly reaffirmed during the deliberations: the freedom of information is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; without it, democracy doesn’t exist.

Our discussions today demonstrated that the protection of journalists continues to be a challenge. The current international context is defined by the Arab revolutions. They offer hope but have also resulted in the murder of many journalists, killed while covering these events; the photos all around us are a tragic illustration of this.

Regimes have thus deliberately chosen to silence journalists, as was the case just recently in Libya, and now in Syria. Everyone knows that the first instinct of the enemies of freedom is to silence the press, and that the freedom fighters’ greatest ally is the free media. I reaffirm that Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria provides for free access to the Syrian territory by the media.

France commends the progress achieved by UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in this area. The action plan on the security of journalists, presented by Mr Mogens Schmidt today, is an excellent initiative which will make it possible to combat with greater effectiveness the impunity of those responsible for violence against journalists. We should also take inspiration from the progress achieved by the NGOs.

Because it is especially attached to the freedom of the press, France has decided, within the framework of its human rights policy, to consistently speak out whenever a journalist is murdered or suffers violence. Not just to condemn these heinous acts, but also to demand that justice be served. If we remain silent when a journalist is murdered then he dies another death.

Because the freedom to exercise the profession of journalism is a priority for France, it has organized this debate with Greece and UNESCO today. And for that same reason it will continue, with its partners at the Security Council and in other forums, to take initiatives to allow journalists to exercise their profession under the best possible conditions.

The freedom of information belongs to everyone. It can, in some ways, be seen as a global public good, because journalists play an essential role in witnessing and teaching us about global events.

Thank you./.

¹Source of English text: Website of the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations.

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