Politics & Policy

Don’t Stop the Presses

The U.N. passes another meaningless resolution.

Two days before Christmas, as many were engaging in mortal combat for mall parking spaces, the United Nations Security Council was busy passing a key resolution that should make the bad guys shake in their combat boots — at least as much as any hard-hitting, butt-kicking, pit-bullish U.N. directive can feasibly do.

I’m not talking about Resolution 1737, which imposed sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt their “peaceful purposes” uranium enrichment, a move more commonly known as casting the “get out of military action free” card.

It’s Resolution 1738, where the Security Council decisively stomped its collective foot down and arrived at the breathtaking conclusion that it’s not O.K. to kill journalists.

I, for one, am so relieved that the United Nations has finally directed one of its window-dressing declarations toward heroically saving my ilk. Surely the killers of Daniel Pearl are finally hanging their heads in shame and Ayman al-Zawahri is faxing copies of 1738 to cells around the globe, chiding his brethren for their wrongdoing.

I’ve always despised symbolic-but-wholly-useless resolutions. Who can forget when the Berkeley City Council passed a post-9/11 resolution condemning any impending U.S. retaliatory attack, and another one this past April calling for the impeachments of President Bush and Dick Cheney (action also taken by loopy city councils in Arcata, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco). Such moves make for proud progressive back-patting fodder, but nothing else.

To be honest, my disdain for useless resolutions is personal — going back to my days as a reporter covering city-council meetings, mindlessly doodling as my eyes glazed over at the endless stream of plaques being presented, resolutions calling on the citizenry to be nice to otters or to not throw engine oil down the garbage disposal. Council members sometimes offer an inspirational sound bite; otherwise, they tend to look just as bored as the press as the city resolved to recognize the vast societal benefits offered by National Basketweaving Day.

But not once did I see a council pass a resolution advising residents to please refrain from trying to run over reporters on the way out of the parking lot. Thus I feel honored that the U.N. spent the ink to let the world know that killing journalists is a bad thing.

The U.N. resolution, which took all of three minutes to pass, “condemns intentional attacks against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel, as such, in situations of armed conflict, and calls upon all parties to put an end to such practices; recalls in this regard that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians and shall be respected and protected as such, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians.”

Reporters Without Borders’ year-end roundup stated that 2006 was the deadliest year for journalists since 1994 (when the U.N.-ignored Rwandan genocide claimed dozens of journalists‘ lives), with 81 journalists and 32 media assistants killed, 56 kidnapped, at least 871 arrested and 1,472 physically attacked or threatened. (Unlike other organizations with higher death counts, Reporters Without Borders includes deaths in their tally only if they are sure the fatality is linked to the journalist’s occupation.)

Resolution 1738 came from a Security Council that includes two permanent members — Russia and China — that Reporters Without Borders appropriately calls “predators of press freedom”; the organization also has dubbed China’s Xinhua “the world’s biggest propaganda agency.” The running total of journalists killed in Russia since Vladimir Putin came to power in March 2000 is at 21, including the October slaying of Anna Politkovskaya (and, of course, when former KGB spook Alexander Litvinenko tried to investigate Politkovskaya’s death, he got a lethal mouthful of polonium 210).

But those Security Council realities should come as no surprise when you consider that the U.N.’s Human Rights Council is a comfortable home for predators of press freedom. In May, ten countries regarded as among the “world’s worst violators of free expression” — Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia — were appointed to the same ol’ pathetic panel “reformed” with a fresh new name. “Already weakened by growing divisions, the council is falling into the UN routine of taking every opportunity to get bogged down in rhetoric and generate piles of useless documents,” journalist Jean-Claude Buhrer wrote for Reporters Without Borders in an August article condemning the council’s Israel-bashing as Hezbollah hurled rockets across the border.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 17 of the kidnappings last year were in Iraq (six of those journalists were executed) and six were in the Gaza Strip. But when the U.N. favors passing resolutions condemning the Israelis (who, for the record, haven’t once cut a journalist’s head off), it once again shows that they merely pay lip service to the problem of journalist deaths and the magnitude of crimes against the press committed at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

The Security Council should realize that, yes, people know that shooting and beheading journalists is a bad thing. But the bad guys don’t care. If the United Nations really cares about journalists on the streets of Iraq, they ought to prove it by ponying up the troops and support to help the U.S.-led Coalition crush the insurgency that’s doing the kidnappings and planting the roadside bombs (which don’t discriminate between reporter, soldier, or little kid). Instead, U.N. diplomats sit back, bemoan the deaths of journalists, and criticize U.S. efforts to combat Islamic terrorists.

The United Nations would do a better job of saving journalists’ lives — and the lives of non-newsies — if it actually got its hands dirty in some of these conflicts into which reporters are much more eager to dive than a cabal of U.N. troops. Perhaps if predators of press freedom weren’t the ones voting on such resolutions as 1738, the action would inspire more respect than eye rolling. As it stands, this resolution will do little but occupy file space in the gargantuan stacks of rhetoric already gathering dust at Turtle Bay.

 – Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She blogs at GOP Vixen.



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