Director-General condemns assassination of Colombian radio journalist Julio PalaciosUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the assassination of Colombian radio journalist Julio Palacios who was shot dead as he was heading to the Lemas radio station, where he hosted a news programme, in Cucuta in the northeast of Colombia on Tuesday.
“I condemn the killing of Julio Palacios,” declared the Director-General, “and hope that the Colombian authorities will succeed in their efforts to identify and bring to justice the culprits of this cowardly attack on freedom of expression.”
Mr Palacios survived an assassination attempt in 1996 and had in the past received death threats in connection with his radio programme. His colleagues are said to believe that he was killed for denouncing corruption and the influence of drug traffickers on local politics.
“The fact that journalists are killed because of what they write or say constitutes an intolerable attack on democracy,” Mr Matsuura said. “I wish to pay tribute to the journalists who brave threats and intimidation to nurture open public debate, however controversial, at the risk of their lives.”
National and international press freedom organizations in Colombia have reported a significant decrease in the number of journalists murdered in relation to their work in the country during 2004. The organizations warn, however, that after dozens of killings over the past 20 years, journalists, especially in the provinces, are resorting to self-censorship to avoid reprisals.
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…”