Protecting journalists worldwide is important to us.
With AP's global footprint, gathering news in more than 100 countries, our reporters face dangers every day. We take the safety of our staff very seriously — our global security team continually visits and updates security at all of our worldwide locations, particularly those in conflict zones. Reporters covering dangerous situations, from Afghanistan to areas facing a medical crisis, carry the latest safety equipment and receive intensive hostile environment training.
There always will be certain risks to covering news firsthand, but there are further legal steps that can be taken to protect journalists. Under existing international law — the Geneva Conventions and additional protocols since then — journalists are considered civilians in conflicts between states.
In 2013, the United Nations adopted a resolution condemning attacks on journalists and underlining the obligations of nations to bring perpetrators to justice. But as the nature of both war and media have changed dramatically in recent years, these protocols no longer address the increasingly perilous challenges facing journalists. With each country responsible for investigating and prosecuting those who kill journalists, it is a patchwork system at best. Only 10 percent of journalists’ killers are ever brought to justice, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Impunity for those who kill journalists only empowers them.
In 2016, in response to objections filed by AP and other news organizations, the Pentagon revised its Law of War guidelines to remove wording that could permit U.S. military commanders to treat war correspondents as "unprivileged belligerents" if they think the journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with enemy forces. The amended manual also dropped wording that equated journalism with spying. These revisions intended to clearly identify journalists as civilians and protect journalists under the law of war.
While steps have been taken toward improving journalist safety, AP believes there needs to be a new international legal mechanism for protecting journalists — one that makes killing journalists or taking them hostage a war crime. The growing challenges to journalists’ ability to gather news should be a worldwide cause for concern. When independent media cannot provide firsthand original reporting, freedom suffers. A free press is the most powerful bulwark between tyranny and democracy, holding governments accountable and providing trustworthy eyewitness news that lets people make informed and responsible choices.