Throughout the world, the journalists play a very important role. They keep the public informed and support them in becoming aware of their socio-political circumstances. Without the journalists providing timely and updated information, it is very difficult for the people of all walks of life to keep pace with ever changing nature of today’s society.
As the journalists provide a very valuable service to the people, they have certain rights as well that should be protected by the governments and different organizations and institutions. Mostly, the societies that are well developed and have great respect for knowledge and information, make sure that the rights of the journalists are guarded properly and they are provided with such circumstances wherein they are able to perform their responsibilities with full dedication and devotion.
On the other hand, the societies that suffer from political instability and experience wars, and disturbances and do not recognize the worth of true knowledge and information tend to forget the vital responsibility of guarding the rights of the journalists. The journalists in such societies tend to suffer from different sorts of discriminations and, unfortunately, even lose their lives.
Mostly conflict zones are dangerous for the journalists. In order to provide true and timely information, the journalists have to move into or close to the places where wars and conflicts happen. They, therefore, put their lives at risk and try to fulfill their responsibilities. Different groups, organizations or countries in such zones have to be very careful about the rights of journalists and make sure they are not targeted. However, that does not seem to happen and many journalists lose their valuable lives every year. Moreover, because of the influence and approach of different extremist networks, the number of journalists losing their lives in the peaceful countries is also alarming.
According to an annual roundup by Reports Without Borders (RSF), a total of 110 journalists were killed around the world in 2015. The details show that sixty-seven journalists were killed in the line of duty this year, and another 43 died in circumstances that were unclear. Another 27 non-professional “citizen-journalists” and seven other media workers were also killed.
The report reveals that the high toll is largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists and demonstrates the failure of initiatives to protect media personnel. There is also a growing role of non-state groups – often militants such as the Islamic State group – in perpetrating atrocities against journalists.
A shocking revelation by RSF is that in 2014 two-thirds of the journalists killed were in war zones. But in 2015, it was the exact opposite – two-thirds were killed in peaceful countries.
RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire emphasized that the creation of a specific mechanism for enforcing international law on the protection of journalists is absolutely essential. Non-state groups perpetrate targeted atrocities while too many governments do not comply with their obligations under international law.
The numbers mentioned above are really alarming and demand from the authorities around the globe to take serious steps to curb the situation. Lip service alone would not suffice; there is a need for tangible and sincere effort in this regard.
Apart from the right to life, according to International law, journalists are entitled for certain other rights as well which all the governments and organizations around the world must respect. Journalists, according to the Declaration of Rights and Duties of the Journalists, must have free access to all information sources, and the right to freely inquire on all events conditioning public life. Therefore, secret of public or private affairs may be opposed only to journalists in exceptional cases and for clearly expressed motives.
Therefore, any factor hindering the journalists from having access to all information sources must be considered illegal and should be eliminated.
Moreover, the journalist have the right to refuse subordination to anything contrary to the general policy of the information organ to which he collaborates such as it has been laid down by writing and incorporated in his contract of employment, as well as any subordination not clearly implicated by this general policy. And, the journalists cannot be compelled to perform a professional act or to express an opinion contrary to his convictions or his conscience. Ill-fatedly, Afghanistan is also one of the countries that have not been giving enough heed to the rights of the journalists. The war and conflicts and the negligence of the relevant authorities have resulted in different sorts of discrimination against the journalists in the county. Afghan government and different other organizations and groups must make sure that they strive to protect the rights of the journalists as they are not a party to the conflict and do not serve anyone’s purpose. Provided that the rights of the journalists are protected, it is important that the journalists must fulfill their responsibilities in the best possible manner. They are required to respect truth whatever be the consequence to themselves, because of the right of the public to know the truth; defend freedom of information, comment and criticism; and report only on facts of which they know the origin of; not to suppress essential information nor alter texts and documents and not to use unfair methods to obtain news, photographs or documents.