Resolution 1438 (2005)1
Freedom of the press and the working conditions
of journalists in conflict zones
1. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recalls the
importance of freedom of expression and information in the media for
democratic societies and for each individual. It constitutes a core value
guaranteed throughout Europe by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Situations of war or conflict do not make the adequate provision of
information through the media any less important; on the contrary, they
enhance its relevance.
2. Journalists reporting from dangerous places, such as war zones,
conflict areas or lawless areas, are often faced with difficult and
dangerous working conditions and sometimes even with widespread and
systematic targeting by terrorist groups in search of media attention, as is
the case at present in Iraq. Freedom of expression and information may,
depending on the individual circumstances, be weighed against other
fundamental considerations, in particular the rights to life, liberty and
security of journalists. These other rights must not be compromised by
growing market pressure for more reports directly from dangerous places and
a supposedly increasing public demand for sensational reporting.
3. The Assembly deplores the great number of murders, kidnappings and
disappearances of journalists working in conflict areas or on dangerous
subjects and regards these as grave acts of aggression against freedom of
expression and information in the media. Widespread
publicity and the fulfilment of terrorists demands, such as paying
large ransoms to kidnappers, considerably increase the risks run by journalists
working in dangerous areas and thus reduce the possibility for the public
receive valuable information.
4. Concerned about the state of freedom of expression and information in
the media in Iraq, the Assembly deplores the numerous deaths and
disappearances of journalists there and the continued detention as hostages
of Florence Aubenas, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, Sorin
Dumitru Miscoci, Marie-Jeanne Ion and
Eduard Ovidiu Ohanesian. It calls for the immediate release of those
Assembly pays tribute to non-governmental organisations such as the
International News Safety Institute, the
International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders, the International
Federation of Journalists, Article 19 and the Institute for War & Peace
Reporting for providing help and advice to journalists working in dangerous
situations and conflict areas.
Welcoming the Charter for the Safety of Journalists Working in War Zones or
Dangerous Areas drawn up by the organisation Reporters Without Borders, the
Assembly recalls the importance of employing only experienced and well
trained journalists, who volunteer to take up such tasks, and of providing
them with adequate safety, communication and first-aid equipment,
psychological counselling after their return and with insurance for illness,
injury, repatriation, disability and loss of life.
Assembly recalls and reaffirms that journalists must be considered civilians
under Article 79 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949,
provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as
civilians, and without prejudice to the right of war correspondents, who are
accredited to the armed forces and accompany them without actually being
members thereof, to the status of prisoner of war under Article 4.A.4 of
Geneva Convention III once fallen into the power of the enemy.
8. Recalling the Committee of Ministers Declaration and Recommendation
No. R (96) 4 on the protection of journalists in situations of conflict
and tension, the Assembly calls on all member and Observer states to comply
fully with them, in particular to:
i. respect the right to freedom of expression and information;
ii. refrain from restricting the use of communication equipment, such
as fixed and mobile telephones, satellite telephones and radio
iii. instruct their military and police forces to give protection and
assistance to journalists;
iv. facilitate access to the territory of destination by issuing
necessary visas and other travel documents to journalists;
v. respect the confidentiality of journalists sources.
9. All Council of Europe member and Observer states are called upon:
i. to ensure that journalists can work safely on their territories;
ii. to investigate all acts of violence or lethal incidents involving
journalists which occur on their territories as well as those occurring
abroad in which their armed or security forces may have been involved,
including those due to friendly fire.
10. Furthermore, the Assembly calls on Council of Europe member and
Observer states to set up compulsory training and information programmes for
war correspondents embedded in military forces, to be provided prior to
11. Media should indicate clearly to the public which reports are from
war correspondents embedded in military or security forces.
12. The Assembly stresses that, if, for
reasons of their own personal safety, journalists embedded in the military
or security forces may only work in certain areas, restrictions on their
reporting must be limited to the absolute minimum required to prevent the
disclosure of confidential information which might endanger ongoing military
13. Journalists employers,
and professional organisations should organise training courses to
prepare journalists for
the risks of working in conflict areas. The media should declare publicly
that no financial payments or political concessions will be made to
kidnappers and that political statements made by kidnapped journalists
made under coercion and are hence without any value.
14. All journalists and their employers are
encouraged to adhere to the Charter for the Safety of Journalists Working in
War Zones or Dangerous Areas drawn up by the organisation Reporters Without
15. With reference to the Committee of
Ministers Declaration of 3 May
1996 on the protection of journalists in situations of conflict and tension,
the Assembly asks the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to pay
particular attention to the fate of journalists in situations of conflict
and tension and to regularly follow cases of journalists who are missing,
detained or have been wounded or killed in the exercise of their profession
in member or Observer states or in connection with military or peace-keeping
operations conducted by Council of Europe member or Observer states abroad.
1. Assembly debate on 28 April 2005 (14th Sitting) (see Doc.
10521, report of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education,
rapporteur: Mr Jarab).
Text adopted by the Assembly
on 28 April 2005 (14th Sitting).