Director-General condemns the killing of Lebanese journalist Samir KassirUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura condemned the killing in a car-bomb attack in Beirut this week of Samir Kassir, a prominent Lebanese journalist , symbol of press freedom and freedom of expression in his country.
“I condemn the assassination of Samir Kassir,” declared the Director-General. “Mr Kassir exercised his professional duty as a journalist and editorialist over the years, expressing his views on Lebanese society and its future. Using murder to deprive a society of one of its voices is contrary to democracy and to human rights. The killing of Mr Kassir constitutes an intolerable crime against an individual, against democracy and against Lebanese society as a whole.”
“As the people of Lebanon vote in elections that are crucial for the future of their country, I strongly condemn this attack and the all too numerous other acts of violence that clearly seek to mar the free democratic exercise of self-determination underway in the country,” Mr Matsuura said.
“On a more personal note,” the Director-General concluded, “I am particularly saddened by this killing as Mr Kassir had worked for UNESCO as a consultant and trainer in human rights. His death is a great loss both for Lebanon and for UNESCO.”
Mr Kassir is among at least three people reported to have been killed in explosions in Lebanon over recent months. Mr Kassir was one of the main editorialists of the daily newspaper An-Nahar. A former contributor to the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, he also founded a French-language monthly in Lebanon, L’Orient Express, which, despite its professional success, had to cease publication for financial reasons.
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…”