Freedom of press : the international community must act
Panel Discussion – Safety of Women Journalists in Conflict Situations - Statement by Mrs Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 3 May 2017
Thank you. Let me first join my thanks to those expressed by the Ambassadors of Greece and Lithuania to all of you for participating today in this event in the honor of the Freedom of the Press. I would like to extend also special thanks to our briefers who have agreed to share their invaluable personal experience, which I’m sure will help us and guide our future action.
As you know last week, Reporters Without Borders published its annual report on Press Freedom and the situation is pictured as "difficult" or as "very serious" in 72 countries, meaning more than a third of the world. Reporters Without Borders ’ world map seems to darken from year to year. The Secretary-General, in the statement he issued in honor of today, recalled the most serious threats undergone by media workers: harassment, sexual assault, detention, injuries and even death. And I would like to pay tribute to those journalists who have paid with their life their commitment to the freedom of information. I am thinking in particular of Ghislaine Dupont, of Claude Verlon, who died in Mali. But I am also thinking of Marie Colvin, of Rémi Ochlik, Olivier Voisin, Yves Debay who died in bombings in Syria.
However, our democracies are not immune to the threats to the freedom and plurality of the media either.
This bleak picture is not inevitable. Through our joint efforts, we have succeeded in strengthening the existing normative framework designed to fight against attacks on journalists and against impunity. We have done so in the General Assembly, we have done so in the Human Rights Council and we have done so in the Security Council, as the Ambassador of Lithuania just recalled. It is now the responsibility of the international community to take further action to strengthen the implementation of the protection of journalists on the ground.
France has a long-standing commitment to the freedom of the press that we celebrate today. This has been ingrained in our identity long before the terrorist attack that decimated the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
First, France does so through its bilateral relations and its bilateral cooperation. We promote the diversity of the media : we support training workshops for physical safety of the media workers, for the protection of their sources and the security of their communications in situations of conflict.
France does also make this commitment in the multilateral fora. With the creation of the Group of friends for the protection of journalists a year ago, we took a step further. Our goal is to help the United Nations foster all energies for States to comply with their international commitments for Freedom of expression. This is also the meaning behind the recommendation made by the Group of friends in favor of a Secretary General’s Special Envoy, who could embody this fight for the protection of journalists and play an important role in early warning, in awareness and in coordination.
And to fuel the discussion, France, as well as the Group of Friends and all of us together, we need to hear the voices of those who are working on the ground. Women, who face specific threats and challenges even more serious in situations of conflicts. I really command their courage that obliges us. We need to hear their concerns and their recommendations and we need take action to change the situation. We all want to see a brighter map of the Press Freedom next year.