Director-General condemns attack on BBC journalists in Saudi ArabiaUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned Sunday’s shooting outside the Saudi capital Riyadh, which left BBC cameraman Simon Cumbers dead and reporter Frank Gardner injured.
“I condemn this attack which targeted two media professionals carrying out their professional work, and who were investigating the ruthless al-Qaeda terrorist network,” the Director-General said.
“The freedom of journalists to carry out such work in reasonable conditions of safety is essential for democracy, which relies on the choices of a well informed public,” Mr Matsuura said. “It is no coincidence that the enemies of freedom and democracy attack media professionals whose work upholds the values of freedom, enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and of freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Recalling the resolution adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1997 to punish the perpetrators of crimes against journalists, the Director-General said: “I am very concerned by the fact that so many journalists are dying in the exercise of their profession and urge the authorities of all our Member States to do all in their power to provide a safe environment for journalists and to seek out and punish those who commit crimes against them.”
According to the International Federation of Journalists, 59 journalists and media workers have been killed in 2004, making this one of the worst years on record. UNESCO is promoting and organizing safety training programmes for media professionals in cooperation with the International News Safety Institute (INSI), a coalition of the major global professional organizations and media NGOs.
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 the Organization is requested 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…”