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Explanation of Vote: Protection of Journalists
September 27, 2012

September 27, 2012

We thank the Austrian government for taking the lad on authoring this resolution, which is emblematic of its continued efforts to ensure freedom of expression and the safety of journalists worldwide.

The free flow of information, including news, helps build productive economies and dynamic societies and provides vital information that citizens can use to hold their governments accountable. However, a broad range of threats confront the media, and journalists’ safety is often in danger in many parts of the world. These include the misuse of terrorism laws to prosecute journalists; the closure of websites and social media sites that criticize governments; physical attacks on, assassinations of, and disappearances of reporters; and the inability or unwillingness of governments to take appropriate steps to protect reporters or prosecute those responsible for attacks on journalists.

These and many other cases underscore the urgent need for today’s resolution. We are especially appreciative that the resolution recognizes the importance of bringing to justice perpetrators of violence against journalists. Its call for accountability articulates this important goal of the international community. We also appreciate that the resolution recognizes that journalists are far too often the victims of violence due to their work and, in particular, that the resolution condemns both violations of the right to free expression by governments and impairment of the enjoyment of that right by non-state actors of all kinds.

In regard to OP6, we note that under the doctrine of lex specialis, the applicable rules for the protection of individuals, including journalists, and conduct of hostilities in armed conflict are typically found in international humanitarian law. Although complex issues arise with respect to the relevant body of law that determines whether a State’s actions in the actual conduct of an armed conflict comport with international law, in this context, it is important to bear in mind that international human rights law and the law of armed conflict contain many similar protections and are in many respects complementary and mutually reinforcing. Determining the international law rule that applies to a particular action taken by a government in the context of an armed conflict is necessarily a fact-specific determination and cannot easily be generalized.

The United States recognizes the vital role of a free press to an open and just society, and will continue to urge all governments to take the steps necessary to ensure that journalists have the freedom to operate independently and without fear.