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UNESCO Concerned About Growing Insecurity for Journalists

11-02-2005 (Paris)
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura stated today that he is increasingly preoccupied by the growing insecurity in which journalists exercise their profession. “Attacks targeting journalists are blows against democracy, which depends largely on the media’s ability to gather information and communicate it to the public,” Mr Matsuura declared. “All too often, a journalist’s mission is carried out in intolerable security conditions.”
“The attack committed against an entire group of journalists in the city of Wana in Pakistan is outrageous,” continued the Director-General. “Opening fire on a minibus in which several journalists were travelling, including Amir Nawab Khan and Allah Noor Wazir who were killed in the incident, represents an act of terrorism, aimed at forcing rare observers to flee. No society can function in a just and satisfactory manner if it betrays basic democratic principles to this degree.”

This observation also applies to Iraq, where Iraqi journalist Abdel Hussein Khazaal was killed with his three-year-old son on February 9 in Bassorah. “The death of Abdel Hussein Khazaal, murdered in particularly odious circumstances, adds to the heavy tribute the media has had to pay in Iraq,” said Mr Matsuura. “The growing insecurity in which journalists are forced to work is extremely preoccupying. When journalists are targeted, it is an attack on freedom of expression, a right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the Director-General added.

Mr Matsuura also condemned the murder of Kate Peyton of the BBC, shot down on February 9 outside her hotel in Mogadiscio, Somalia, and evoked the kidnappings in Iraq of Giuliana Sgrena, Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun, as more dramatic examples of the media’s perilous working conditions.

Amir Nawab Khan (Associated Press Television News and The Frontier Post) and Allah Noor Wazir (Khyber TV in Peshawar, the Pakistani daily The Nation and the German newsagency DPA) were killed January 7 on their way back from the village of Sararogha, in southern Waziristan, where they were reporting on the surrender of rebel chieftain Baitullah Mehsud, who had agreed to disarm in exchange for the Pakistani government’s offer of amnesty. The minibus in which they were traveling with two other journalists was machine-gunned by unknown assailants. Those injured are Anwar Shakir, who worked in Wana for Agence France Presse and Zardad Khan from Al-Jazeera
television.

Abdel Hussein Khazaal was the correspondent for Al-Hurrah (The Free) television, an Arab-language station financed by the United States, and the head of the Bassorah governorate’s press service. He was killed coming out of his home.

Kate Peyton, a BBC producer based in Johannesburg (South Africa), was killed outside her hotel in Mogadiscio (Somalia), one of the most dangerous places in the world according to journalists’ associations.

UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this purpose the Organization is required to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”

(Source: Press Release No.2017)
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