Director-General Condemns murder of Afghan music presenter Shaima RezayeeThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today condemned the assassination of Shaima Rezayee, a former music programme presenter on Afghanistan’s private Tolo TV station.
“I condemn the murder of Shaima Rezayee,” the Director-General declared, adding: “On no account can murder be considered as an instrument for cultural policy and it is outrageous to think that musical programming can justify the taking of life. The killing of Ms Rezayee is a cowardly criminal act that must be punished, to help Afghanistan move away from the obscurantist fanaticism that has caused immense suffering to so many people in the country in the recent past.”
Ms Rezayee, a former presenter with the privately-owned television station Tolo TV, was shot dead in Kabul on May 18. She is the first media personality to have been assassinated for her professional activities in Afghanistan since the end of the war in 2001.
Ms Rezayee presented her music programme on television until March 24 when she was fired. According to the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders, Ms Rezayee’s dismissal followed accusations by the Council of Ulemas that her programme was anti-Islamic and that her behaviour on screen was too liberal. Tolo TV is, moreover, reported to have been the target of constant criticism from religious leaders.
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…”