UNESCO Director-General voices alarm at sharp increase in number of journalists killed in 2003Paris, January 8 - UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the killing of five journalists in recent weeks and deplored the fact that more reporters were killed in the line of duty in 2003 than in any year since 1995.
“I am very concerned about the killing of Ersa Siregar,” Mr Matsuura commenting the killing on December 29 of the Indonesian journalist of private television channel Rajawali Citra Televisivi who had been held captive for six months by separatist rebels in Aceh. “The tragic case of Ersa Siregar, whose colleague Fery Santaro is still held in captivity, illustrates the difficulty faced by journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Aceh and I call on both sides to respect the right of journalists to work in safe conditions. It is the media’s duty to supply the public with information and it is essential for democracy and rule of law that the media be able to carry out its work safely,” the Director General said.
“I am equally concerned”, the Director-General declared, “by the killings of Ivannia Mora Rodriguez in Costa Rica, on December 23; of broadcast journalist William Soto Cheng, in Colombia on December 18; and the mysterious deaths of Volodymyr Karachevtsev - the deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly Ukrainian newspaper Kurier on December 14 - and of Marco Boukoukou Boussaga, the Editor-in-Chief of L'Autre journal in Libreville, Gabon, on December 15 both of which are yet to be elucidated.”
“It is a source of grave concern that the number of journalists killed in the line of duty in 2003 was higher than in any year since 1995”, Mr Matsuura added, commenting reports by professional organizations on the number of journalists killed last year. These reports say that between 36 and 42 journalists died in the line of duty in 2003, compared to 19 to 25 in 2002 and a record 49 in 1995 when 22 were killed in the civil conflict in Algeria.
Fourteen to 19 of the journalists killed in 2003 died in Iraq, five in the Philippines and three in Colombia.
“The vast majority of the killings remain un-investigated and unpunished,” Mr Matsuura noted, “despite the pledge UNESCO’s Member States made in a resolution they adopted at the Organization’s General Conference in 1997 to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice.”
“As long as violence is used to muzzle the voice of reporters, the free flow of ideas, which UNESCO has been created to promote, will remain an unattainable ideal. In the interest of freedom of expression, democracy and rule of law, I am also gravely concerned by the high number of journalists imprisoned in 2003. Seven-hundred and sixty-six were arrested and 124 were reported to be in jail in late 2003,” the Director-General said.