Journalists at risk in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain

Excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I thank the Gulf Centre for Human Rights for this kind invitation. I also thank all the partners who have made this event possible. Thank you all for your attendance to listen to what journalists in our countries suffer from.

Nabil Shurbajee, a young journalist is detained by the Syrian regime since 2012, the echo of his quiet words and his insistence on challenging the barbarian killing machine for truth and justice still waves into myself. I see it also in Ahmad Primo, Dirar Khattab, Sirwan Haj Hussein, the activists of “Raqqa is being slaughtered silently” and hundreds of journalists and citizen journalists who are still there on the ground alone publishing the truth, even after they have seen the fate of the martyrs Akram Raslan, Lana Lafi, Khaled Al-Essa, Naji al-Jerf and dozens of others. I am ashamed of them whilst I sit at this podium talking, and just talking, but I hope to say something could be concerned.

Since the beginning of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria, journalists and citizen journalists were the witnesses of the truth, and played a crucial role in revealing the nature of the dictator regimes and organisations. They spreaded the spirit of the revolution even into Europe and the United States, their pictures inspired the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. They was motivated by the truth, justice and moral duty. So they were the first target of the regimes of their countries.

In Syria, more than 560 journalists and citizen journalists were killed, and more than 1090 were detained or kidnapped since March 2011.90% of them by the Syrian regime,the Russian army and their allied militias, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Journalists and citizen journalists are still the weakest link among all the actors on the ground. They are exposed to direct murdering and detention, and to the indirect killing, because they are always in danger during the coverage of events. they are also vulnerable to harassment due to their work. That doesn’t end here, but they are vulnerable to the violation of their rights by the media outlets for which they work. Many are employed without contracts, or with unfair contracts, and with conditions appropriate to the agendas of those outlets. The independent journalist have become rare, and who were able to save their independency like who seizes a cinder.

We can not talk about the protection of journalists, away from the overall context of protecting all people. Strivers toward truth and justice in the world, in Syria in particular, have lost faith in the ability of the United Nations organisations to protect and do justice to the oppressed people. There are thousands of workers in these institutions are doing a fantastic job, but they fail to achieve tangible results, due to the domination of the powerful states on the UN resolution. There are members in the Security Council protect the criminals from being accountable.

In this sense, the Security Council reminds me of the security agencies of the dictator regimes like in Syria. They do exactly the opposite of what their names mean. I recall Syrian journalist Maan Akel, who was arrested for six months before the revolution, because he reported about the corruption of some medicine companies in Syria. But after the revolution, the regime has kept up his crimes against the population, and especially against journalists and citizen journalists. These crimes reached an extend which could not even be imaginable. And the Security Council kept up its protection of this regime, so that the impunity became a general rule in Syria. Therefor, journalists and citizen journalists became the first and the easiest target of anyone who wants to impose his point of view forcibly.

What we count on, is the work of NGOs. To protect journalists and to bring into real a meaningful change in the system which controll the world today. These NGOs don’t save any effort, and they do tremendous work for journalists in the world, and to provide protection for their families as well. I personally have experienced the importance of their role when I was detained by the Assad regime. But also, more serious missions are to be done .

First, despite the fact that the citizen journalists are protected as civilians in war territories according to the international law, and despite the fact that NGOs do not except them from their efforts to protect journalists, it is demanded to amend the international law which concerned journalists protection to adapt the new concepts, especially the “Citizen Journalist”.

Second, we should support the independence of journalists around the world, and protect them from the fear of losing their financial resource. Actually I feel sorry that a capable journalist misrepresents events commensurate with the agenda of the media outlet for which he/she works. I feel sorry that a journalist cries a child but dares not to mention the offender.

Third, it’s a must to participate, from the press point of view, to fundamentally change the mechanisms of action of the UN organisations starting from the Security Council itself. And to push toward the separation of the International Criminal Court from the Security Council to be able to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes against journalists, isn’t it so in the democratic countries?

My speech on 20 September at a side event during the 33rd session of Human Rights Council in Geneva

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