Director-General condemns murder of Belarus journalist Veronika CherkasovaUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the assassination of Veronika Cherkasova, a journalist for the independent Belarus newspaper Solidarnost, in Minsk on October 20. Mr Matsuura also voiced concern over reports of widespread attacks on freedom of the press in the country in recent months.
“I condemn the cold-blooded assassination of Veronika Cherkasova,” the Director-General declared, adding: “This violent attack targeted not only an individual but an entire profession and a fundamental right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
According to the international press freedom organization, the International Press Institute, Ms Cherkasova was found dead in her apartment in Minsk where she had received close to 20 knife wounds. Ms Cherkasova was collecting material for an article on the work of religious sects in Belarus.
Commenting persistent reports by numerous professional organizations of recent intimidation against national and foreign journalists in Belarus, the Director-General said: “I am concerned over alarming reports that the human right to freedom of expression is being systematically disregarded.”
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…”