Director-General condemns murder of Philippines journalists Romeo Sanchez and Arnulfo VillanuevaThe Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the assassination of two journalists in the Philippines, Romeo Sanchez and Arnulfo Villanueva and said it was indispensable that those responsible be tried and punished if freedom of expression is to be protected in the country.
“I condemn the murders of Romeo Sanchez and of Arnulfo Villanueva,” the Director-General declared. “The use of assassination to silence journalists is a grievous attack on democracy. It deprives society as a whole of the fundamental human right to freedom of expression and cannot be tolerated. Free and open debate is an essential component of democracy, which has no place for political assassination.”
“I trust that the Philippines authorities will do all they can to find the culprits and bring them to justice,” Mr Matsuura further said. “It is only through swift and determined action against those who use violence to silence t the media that the tragic frequency with which journalists are assassinated in the Philippines can be reduced,” he concluded.
Mr Sanchez, of the Bayan Muna party, was a broadcaster at DZNL radio in San Fernando City. He was shot dead by a gunman in a market in Baguio on March 9. Mr Villanueva, a columnist for the Asian Start Express Balita community newspaper, was found shot dead on the night of February 28 on a road in the town of Naic.
According to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), “at least eight journalists died last year in the Philippines in circumstances suggesting that they may have been killed for exercising their profession.
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…”