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Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflicts: An International Law Perspective


R.M.T.S.K. Rathnayake

General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Ratmalana, LK
About R.M.T.S.K.
Faculty of Law
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Each year a large number of journalists are killed or wounded in armed conflicts. In armed conflicts, journalists are among a precious few remaining actors capable of exposing illegality (Saul, 2009). Because war journalists ensure the realization of the human right to information of citizens all over the world, they play an essential role. International humanitarian law lays down the main international legal framework governing the journalists in armed conflicts. Article 79 of Additional Protocol I of Geneva Conventions states that “Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians and they shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians”. It can be identified that journalists are protected under the condition that they take no active participation in hostilities. However, Geneva conventions have failed to provide a definition or direct participation of hostilities. Therefore, it is not clear of the instances journalists are protected under International Humanitarian Law because protection of journalists depends on the activities of journalists and whether it amounts to a direct participation in hostilities.


Moreover, it can be seen that Geneva Conventions have not addressed the protection of journalists in non-international armed conflicts. Therefore, journalists in internal armed conflicts are not protected under Geneva conventions. Another, fundamental issue with regard to the protection of journalists is the distinction between War Correspondents and Independent Journalists. It can be identified that Geneva Conventions identifies War Correspondents and Independent Journalists as two distinct categories. Article 79(2) states that journalists should be protected without prejudice to the rights of war correspondents. It is important to identify different types of journalists in order to provide effective protection because different types of journalists serve different tasks in the battlefield and they must be given protection after considering the nature of their journalist activities. In this backdrop, the research aims to identify the existing legal framework governing journalists, to analyze inadequacy of the existing laws to protect journalists and to recommend a suitable protection mechanism to protect journalists. The research follows a qualitative approach of legal research. The research adopts the “Black-letter approach” which resulted in analyzing primary and secondary sources of law. The research recommends the adopting of a separate legal instrument to govern journalists in armed conflicts. An International convention should be introduced to protect them.
How to Cite: Rathnayake, R.M.T.S.K., 2017. Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflicts: An International Law Perspective. OUSL Journal, 12(2), pp.63–73. DOI:
Published on 27 Dec 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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