Director-General welcomes release of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi assistant Hussein HanounThe Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura today welcomed the release from captivity in Iraq of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi assistant Hussein Hanoun after five months in captivity in Iraq.
“I welcome the release of Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun,” the Director-General declared. “I rejoice both for them and for their families. On this appy occasion, I must, nonetheless, express my concern about the unacceptable toll that media professionals are having to pay to keep us all informed about the situation in Iraq. I call on all those in positions of power in the country to respect the fundamental human right of freedom of expression and the right of journalists to carry out their professional responsibilities in conditions of safety.”
Ms Aubenas, correspondent of French daily newspaper Libération spent 157 days in captivity with her Iraqi assistant Mr Hanoun. According to the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders, 11 journalists have been killed in Iraq this year alone, and 58 have died since the start of the fighting there. Two television journalists, Frédéric Nérac and Isam Hadi Muhsin Al-Shumary, went missing on 22 March 2003 and 15 August 2004 respectively, and are still unaccounted for, according to the NGO.
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…”