Reply to Russia on the Department of Defense Law of War Manual: Statement to the PC

I wanted to respond to the statement made by the distinguished Russian ambassador with regard to the United States Law of War Manual.

This issue has been raised now by the Russian Federation three times in recent months, so, colleagues, bear with me if you’ve already heard something along the lines of what I have to say.

First of all, much of what the Russian delegation’s statement said today was not true. However, there have been genuine concerns raised by both journalists and civil society actors more broadly in the United States with the release of the Department of Defense Law of War Manual. The purpose of this manual, contrary to the insinuations of the distinguished Russian ambassador, is to help ensure the U.S. military’s adherence to international law.

Obviously it goes without saying that the United States strongly supports press freedoms and the vital work that journalists perform. Freedom of the press is part of our constitution, and part of our political and civic identity, and we certainly continue to strive constantly to build a more perfect union, and that includes constant  maintenance and improvement of protections and defense of freedom of expression and press freedom,  both domestically and internationally.

As I reported to this council before, the Department of Defense is engaging with media personnel and organizations to try to understand some of the concerns that have been expressed and to clarify misunderstandings. And, contrary to what the distinguished Russian ambassador said earlier today, I actually committed last time not to report back here, but rather to engage with the Representative of Freedom of the Media on this topic, which I have done with an initial meeting and I will continue to follow up with her. In our initial conversation we discussed the engagement of the Department of Defense with media organizations, and I won’t speak for her, but allow her to share whatever she wishes to share in terms of our engagement, and I will commit to continue to keep an open channel with her and her office on this issue.

Finally, just to reiterate, I was glad to hear the Russian Federation’s strong support for tackling the issue of safety of journalists, and concern over degradation of the safety of journalists, and I hope that is a good indication that we will be able to find consensus on a text defending the safety of journalists at the Ministerial in December.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

As delivered by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer to the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna