UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned the frequent attacks against journalists worldwide and demanded an end to the impunity enjoyed by those guilty of violent crimes against members of the press.
The appeal came in the form of a unanimously adopted resolution that also called for the release of all media professionals "who have been kidnapped or taken as hostages, in situations of armed conflict."
The resolution was drafted by this month's Security Council president, Lithuania, whose Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius presided over the meeting.
Mariane Pearl, a journalist and widow of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded by Pakistani militants in 2002, told the 15-nation council that it was "a troubled time for our profession."
"In 2014, impunity in journalism murder cases reached a staggering 96 percent and the remaining 4 percent obtained only partial justice," she said.
"We have become targets. Insurgent groups no longer use reporters to transmit news, but instead kidnap them to make news. They treat us as enemy combatants and spies. This is our everyday reality."
Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders says 66 reporters were killed in 2014, 25 since the start of this year, and more than 700 over the past decade.
Many members of the council and other U.N. member states cited the beheadings of Western journalists by Islamic State militants, who have seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq, as among the most heinous examples of violence against reporters.
"Syria continues to be the deadliest place for journalists," Linkevicius said. "At least some 80 journalists have been
killed in Syria since the conflict there began in 2011. The second and third places in journalist deaths were shared by Iraq and Ukraine."
Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Jan Eliasson reminded council members that local reporters face the most risks.
"We must not forget that around 95 percent of the killings of journalists in armed conflict concern locally based journalists, receiving less media coverage" than the Western reporters killed by Islamic State, he said.
In addition to Syria and Iraq, speakers cited the treatment of journalists Iran, Russia, Ukraine, Burundi and elsewhere.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also named Ethiopia and Azerbaijan as countries where journalists were at risk.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau. Editing by Andre Grenon