Marking World Humanitarian Day, UNESCO urges protection for journalists in Yemen

The pictures sent by Yemeni journalists to UNESCO served to highlight that all parties have a legal duty to respect the Geneva Conventions (Photo: UNESCO Doha)

20.08.2017 - UNESCO Office in Doha

On 19 August 2017, UNESCO Cluster Office for the GCC and Yemen joined UN agencies in Yemen in commemorating World Humanitarian Day through a digital campaign on social media drawing attention to the millions of Yemenis living in conflict and recalling that civilians, including journalists, are #NotAtarget.

The campaign, led by various UN agencies in Yemen including OCHA, WHO, UNFPA, UNDP, FAO, UNESCO and international humanitarian organizations, focused on the continuous attacks and violence against aid workers, medical staff, civilians, children, livelihoods and journalists in Yemen since the escalation of violence in early 2015.

Yemen is considered the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 18.8 million people or almost two thirds of the population in need of humanitarian or protection support and almost three million internally displaced. 

Speaking on the occasion, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said "ensuring unhindered humanitarian access is essential to save the lives of those who depend on assistance, particularly as Yemen is facing an unprecedented cholera crisis and over seven million people are at risk of famine". 

As part of the campaign, UNESCO cooperated with local journalists across the country, from Mukalla to Sana'a, to gather images of media workers holding the sign "Journalists are #NotAtarget". 

In the context of wars and humanitarian crisis, people rely extensively on information from the media to make informed decisions that can save their lives.

Journalists play an important role in ensuring that communities in crisis can access information about the work and services provided by humanitarian organizations. As such, during humanitarian crisis, the safety of journalists needs to be guaranteed.

The pictures sent by Yemeni journalists to UNESCO served to highlight that all parties have a legal duty to respect the Geneva Conventions, which recognize the targeting of journalists in conflict situations as a war crime and reaffirms the civilian status of journalists and qualify attacks on the media during conflict as a war crime.

Since the escalation of violence, Yemeni journalists and media workers are regularly subjected to threats, attacks, arbitrary arrests, detention, kidnappings, and killings.

Since 2015, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova has condemned the killings of 21 Yemeni journalists. More than a dozen media workers are still detained in Yemen.

UNESCO leas the UN's efforts to advocate for and strengthen the safety of journalists worldwide, including in Yemen, through the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. 

About World Humanitarian Day 2017

Earlier in the week, the UN and partners launched the #NotATarget petition urging global leaders do more to ensure the rules of war are upheld and civilians are protected in armed conflicts.

With more than 10,500 signatures, the petitioners demand that world leaders do more to protect people trapped in conflicts, with a particular focus on those living in urban areas, children, targets of sexual violence, forcibly displaced people, humanitarian workers and health workers.

The petition will be presented to the Secretary-General during the high-level General Assembly, which opens on 12 September this year.

The UN General Assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day in 2008, selecting the date to coincide with the anniversary of the deadly 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

Originally coined by Médecins Sans Frontières in 2015, the #NotATarget hashtag is being used in the World Humanitarian Day digital campaign this year to call for action on behalf of all civilians trapped in conflicts.