Journalists: International Protection

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:03 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham 5:03 pm, 9th January 2019

I am sorry that I was a bit late coming into the debate, although I was actually on time—we started early. I have two minutes, so I had better get on with it.

I will talk about the protection of journalists in conflict. Some 26 years ago, as the UN commander, I was sent to Bosnia by the British Government with the explicit instruction that I was not to protect journalists. I was not to look after them, I was not to sustain them, I was not to give them food and I was not to give them fuel. They were not my responsibility and I was to leave them alone.

The Ministry of Defence then accredited 102 journalists to my battalion. I thought that something was weird. Then, on 20 October 1992, I recovered the body of a BBC journalist who had been cut in half by an armour-piercing round. He was a dreadful mess. He was dead, of course, which I was very upset by. His name was Tihomir Tunuković. I brought him back and thought something was wrong. On 1 November, three more journalists were in my hospital. I thought, “This is actually wrong. I have been given rotten instructions here.” They were British journalists but, British or not, any journalist required my protection, so I changed the instructions.

I note that I have 33 seconds left, so I will say only one thing. The Geneva convention should have a new protocol—perhaps the Foreign Office could start that process—to protect journalists, because the Geneva conventions are actually the laws of war and conflict. Thank you, Mr Bailey. I am sorry that I screwed up my speech.