When thinking of the protection of civilians in conflict, access to information might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, access to timely and verified information can play a critical role in their protection. 

While civilians may turn to multiples sources to seek information, which vary from online forums to social media and community networks, access to free press is essential and must be guaranteed even in times of conflict.  

The role of the media is critical in providing the public with accurate and timely information. Trustworthy news and images can contribute to the protection of civilians and conflict prevention, bring to the attention of the international community the horrors and reality of conflict, and expose violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  

A free press can also serve as a platform for civilians to voice their concerns and share their experiences. Through their work, journalists can help provide a platform of expression for marginalized communities, such as women, children, and minority groups, who are often disproportionately affected by conflict situations.  

By continuously documenting and reporting on war violations and atrocities, a free press can contribute to putting pressure on parties to the conflict to stop their hostilities as well as urging the international community to take specific actions. Increased pressure on warring factions and other actors as a result of intense media coverage may also result in global efforts to hold accountable those responsible for civilian harm.” 

A free press also plays an important role in bringing attention to the humanitarian needs and what should be done to support affected individuals and communities. By bringing timely and verified information to the public, journalists can help mobilize support for humanitarian responses so people in need receive assistance and protection.  

In today’s day and age, protecting and guaranteeing a free press has become even more urgent as conflict situations have become increasingly fertile soil for mass disinformation campaigns, which can cause significant harm to civilian populations. 


However, in many conflict situations, journalists themselves are at risk of violence and persecution. They may be targeted by military or government authorities or by non-state actors such as armed groups or criminal gangs. It is therefore essential that journalists receive protection and support to carry out their work safely and effectively.” 

To achieve press freedom and protect journalists in conflict situations, several factors need to be considered. International conventions such as the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognize the right to freedom of expression and press, even during armed conflict. These conventions can serve as a basis to advocate for the protection of journalists and media workers in conflict zones. By recognizing the importance of press freedom, these conventions can help ensure that journalists are able to report safely and effectively from conflict zones. 

Journalists and media workers deployed to cover conflict situations should receive safety training to avoid harm or danger. This training should include basic security protocols, first aid, and situational awareness. By providing safety training, journalists can be better prepared to identify and avoid danger, respond to an attack, and report from a safe location.  

Protective gear such as helmets, vests, and gas masks should be provided to journalists to ensure their safety while covering events in conflict zones. Additionally, journalists should be granted access to information and sources in such areas to enable them to report accurately and comprehensively. Authorities and armed groups should allow journalists to move freely. 

Finally, in today’s world, where conflict and violence are becoming the norm, a free press is more important than ever. As citizens, we must recognize the critical role that journalists play in protecting civilians and advocating for human rights. We must demand that our governments prioritize the safety and protection of journalists, and ensure that they can do their jobs without fear of persecution or harm.  

It is crucial that we stand in solidarity with journalists, and support their efforts to promote peace, justice, and human dignity.

Julius Gaiya is a Program, Advocacy & Communications Officer at CIVIC Nigeria

Image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov
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