Director-General calls for release of French journalist Florence Aubenas and Iraqi translator Hussein Hanoun al-SaadiUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today made an urgent plea for the release of French newspaper reporter Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi translator Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi who have been missing in Iraq since January 5. He also deplored the lack of security for media workers in the country.
Ms Aubenas, a reporter for French daily newspaper Libération, and her Iraqi translator, Mr Hannoun al-Saadi, were last seen in Ms Aubenas’ hotel in Baghdad. They are believed to have been kidnapped, but the motives of their possible abduction, whether political or financial, have not been ascertained. A concert, organized by Liberation and Reporters Without Borders, will be held in Paris this evening as a show of solidarity with the journalist and her translator.
“I wish to pay tribute to the courage of journalists, both Iraqis and foreigners, who, like Florence Aubenas, take considerable risks to keep the world informed,” Mr Matsuura said. “I also wish to plead with all groups in the country to stop targeting journalists, whether for political or financial motives. The independence and freedom of the media must be respected if the people of Iraq are to be able take charge of their destiny and make informed choices.”
The Director-General recalled that “journalists are civilians carrying out an important duty recognized both by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, and by the Geneva Convention and its Protocols. I deplore the lack of security in which media workers have to exercise their professional duties in Iraq and call on all the responsible authorities to respect the legitimate rights of journalists and their teams to carry out their important work.”
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…”