Director-General urges the release of french journalists held hostage in IraqUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today made an urgent plea for the release of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, the two French journalists held hostage in Iraq, and vigourously condemned the shameful targeting of journalists in that country.
“I strongly urge the hostage-takers to free Mr Chesnot and Mr Malbrunot, two civilians exercising a profession that is of fundamental importance,” Mr Matsuura said, adding: “Journalists carrying out their duties are protected under the Geneva Convention and its Protocols. It is totally unacceptable that conflicting factions should use them as pawns in their struggle. Such attacks will not contribute to the well-being of the people of Iraq. Such actions are contrary to the teaching of Islam,” Mr Matsuura said.
“I am deeply distressed,” the Director-General concluded, “by the shameful targeting of media professionals in Iraq and wish to pay tribute to their courage and their exemplary commitment to freedom of expression.”
Christian Chesnot (38), correspondent for Radio France International and Georges Malbrunot (41) of French daily Le Figaro disappeared ten days ago on the road between Baghdad and Najaf. According to the International News Safety Institute (INSI) 51 media workers from 16 countries have died covering the Iraq conflict. The heaviest toll has been paid by Iraqi journalists of whom 28 have been killed.
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…”.