Reporting on Violence and Emergencies: Regional Media Conference for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific

WELCOME REMARKS 14 Oct 2011 Cynthia Lee, Communication Coordinator, ICRC Delegation in the Philippines Good morning, We thank you very much for joining us here, distinguished speakers, representatives of the media from the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region, ladies and gentlemen. There are a number of reasons why the International Committee of the Red Cross needs to engage with the media. We recognize that it is key to drawing support among the authorities, opinion makers and the public for humanitarian issues and assisting the victims of violence and emergencies. It is important because fair and responsible coverage of the related issues could ultimately have an impact on the humanitarian challenges our different societies are facing. Part of the mandate of the ICRC is to promote international humanitarian law (or IHL) and, in recent years, we have seen increasing media interest in this body of law that protects those who do not or no longer take part in fighting and that regulates the means and methods of warfare. Among some of the examples: Recent conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan have led to extensive media coverage of whether or not the conflict parties complied with their obligations under the law. Also the legality of weapons such as cluster munitions has been a subject of public interest. Understanding IHL allows journalists and editors to strengthen accuracy and analysis of their stories, particularly on the legal and the human aspects by evoking principles like distinction between fighters and civilians, and proportionality. This could certainly lead to better respect for the law. International humanitarian law is also worth knowing for another important reason since we know quite well that journalists reporting from conflict areas are almost inevitably putting their safety at risk. IHL, as a legal framework, offers specific protection to journalists, defining them essentially as civilians who should not be directly targeted. For many years already, the ICRC has been engaged in discussions with the media in a number of countries on the safety of journalists working in risky settings. For example, here in the Philippines, we have held a number of media workshops on IHL. In your conference packets, you can also find out more about our hotline for journalists on dangerous assignment in conflict zones and elsewhere, a humanitarian service that we provide. Previously, the ICRC held two regional conferences for the media in Dhaka (in 2007) and in Sydney (in 2009). Today, we want to take the discussions of the issues a step further by bringing together, for the first time, a group of media leaders from East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific. There is a lot on the agenda for today related to the three conference themes: opportunities and challenges in reporting on emergency and violence; the role of the media in protecting vulnerable people; safety of journalists reporting on violence and emergencies. After hearing what the speakers have to say, asking questions, and debating the issues, you will have the chance to put your proposals and recommendations together in a joint initiative—a declaration or pledge or other format—at the end of day. Again, thank you very much for your participation today and I wish you a rewarding day of deliberations.

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