Ireland: can journalists be better protected in conflict?
There is no white horse charging to the rescue of journalists in war, renowned reporter Fergal Keane told an Irish Red Cross discussion supported by the ICRC. Correspondents, cameramen and fixers must be aware of risk and take sensible security precautions.
Fifty journalists, humanitarians, students and lawyers gathered at an event hosted by the Irish Red Cross to debate the reality of security on the ground where the protections offered to journalists by the laws of armed conflict can appear non-existent.
Fergal Keane, a veteran reporter with Irish broadcaster RTE was joined on the panel by experienced foreign correspondent Shona Murray and defence and security analyst Declan Power, who shared their knowledge of the realities of conflict for journalists. The participants urged trainee media workers to think about how their own conduct could lead them to be perceived as part of a conflict and the impact this could have on their safety.
The Irish Red Cross explained how journalists are classified as civilians under international humanitarian law and are therefore entitled to protection in war. And if a journalist is officially accredited and embedded with an armed force in an international armed conflict he or she is entitled to prisoner-of-war status if captured.
The ICRC highlighted its hotline for journalists as a vital tool for media professionals working in conflicts. It can help families or news organizations concerned about their workers' whereabouts and wellbeing. The hotline, introduced in 1985, helps the ICRC take prompt action if media workers are arrested, reported missing, wounded or killed in conflict. However, the ICRC's response has limits. The Hotline should not be relied upon as an exit strategy or replace an analysis of the risks that anyone reporting from an armed conflict must undertake, the ICRC said.