Technology plays an important role in journalism. It enables us to witness, hear and live worldwide events between countries without being there, or putting our lives at risk. As recent events in this region have shown us, journalists play a crucial role in society. They are the impartial witnesses to war, up-risings, corruption and disasters. Without that impartial record of events a great many travesties would go unrecorded and unresolved.
The International Conference for The Protection of Journalists in Dangerous Situations took place in Doha on January 22. It was held in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and was organized by the National Commission for Human Rights under the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
It is thought that as many as 550 journalists have been killed in the past five years whilst reporting from dangerous situations. That translates to roughly two journalists killed per week. Two-thirds died in areas where there are armed conflicts or political violence, the other third were killed due to criminal activities by gangs and drug dealers.
At the event several real-life cases were presented explaining the dangers journalists faced and exploring the kinds of protection they should be afforded according to International Humanitarian law. There were many inspirational ideas; chief among them was the hotline for the International Red Cross. The hotline creates a connection between the journalists and their families as well as government institutions, enabling them to stay informed about journalists’ current locations and condition. Not only that, but it also helps in reporting news of the wounded, tracing missing people and transferring bodies should the worst have happened.
The conference also included several workshops on issues such as developing an international treaty for the protection of journalists and providing a formal channel through which investigations can be carried out. Several recommendations were made, including:
- For Governments: Agree that families of murdered journalists have the right to receive compensation either directly or through media institutions as well as the establishment of a fund for the victims.
- For News Organizations: Increase awareness of the conventions as well as legal and regional legislation
- For Journalists: Develop a culture that upholds responsibility for the safety of oneself and seek to train all journalists who travel to areas of conflict.
Journalists who stand between truth and danger saw much hope at the conference, therefore, the hope is that these recommendations won’t be merely ink on paper, but become a reality so that they gain international protection and legal immunity to safeguard their life and their dignity.