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UN Calls for Greater Protection of Journalists in War Zones - 2004-04-01

A U.N. human rights expert on freedom of expression is calling for greater protection of journalists working in war zones. In his report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, U.N. expert Ambeyi Ligabo, expresses concern over the growing number of attacks in many countries against journalists, media workers, and trade unionists.

He says the number of journalists and reporters working in war zones has increased because modern technologies have made it possible to report instantaneously with minimal equipment.

"Governments should take all necessary measures to protect journalists from attacks, be they from officials, law enforcement officers, armed groups or terrorists, and to provide an enabling environment for their activities," he said.

Mr. Ligabo says he intends to carry out an in-depth study on the security of journalists, in particular in conflict.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 346 journalists were killed between 1994 and 2003. It says 55 died in cross fire, while 263 were murdered for their reporting.

The report cites Colombia, Algeria, Russia and India as among the most dangerous places for journalists. It says many media representatives also have lost their lives covering events in conflict zones from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Haiti and Ivory Coast.

Mr. Ligabo says, while he was on a fact-finding mission in Colombia earlier this year, seven journalists were killed there.

"They had been shot in the line of duty," he said. "They had not committed any crime. But, what they had done is to report certain aspects of what activities went on in militant camps or what the government or some of the cartels had done. And, these people were killed... So, the situation of fear and intimidation still exists."

He says one proposal he is considering is providing journalists in zones of conflict with a protective emblem, much like the red cross or red crescent used now to identify medical personnel.