VIENNA, July 03./ITAR-TASS/. The Russian Foreign Ministry has proposed drafting a special protocol to the Geneva conventions on the protection of civilian persons in time of war in order to ensure the security of journalists covering armed conflicts.
“In terms of international law, journalists are always considered civilian persons even if they are near those who are fighting,” Grigory Lukyantsev, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights, said at an informal news briefing organized on Thursday, July 3, by the Russian Mission.
The Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly prevented Russian journalists from carrying out their professional duties during the crisis, and members of the Russian media were detained and even tortured, he said.
LifeNews TV channel cameraman Marat Saichenko spoke about his week-long captivity in Ukraine. “We were captured and beaten up. They said they knew we were journalists but would make everyone believe that we were terrorists. We were taken to the vicinity of the city of Izyum where most of the Ukrainian troops were stationed. They put us in pits dug in the ground and kept there for about 12 hours without food and water. From time to time they would talk to us, put a gun to our heads and rack the slide, demanding that we say we were not journalists and threatening to kill us,” he said.
The idea of drafting an additional protocol was supported by the delegation of Serbia which is to take over the presidency in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2015. The Serbian delegation’s head, Sanja Milinkovic, said this document had been drafted several years ago in the OSCE and this work should be resumed.
“As next year’s chairman we will pay much attention to the security of journalists,” she said.
“Since the start of the conflict journalists in Ukraine have been working in abnormal conditions,” ITAR-TASS First Deputy Director-General Mikhail Gusman said. “For us who do this as a profession creating conditions for safe work is a top priority. The protection of journalists concerns every one of us and it concerns our Ukrainian journalists too,” he said.