Director-General condemns murder of IraqiUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the assassination on July 1 of Khaled Sabih Al Attar, a satirical programme producer on Iraq’s Al-Irakiya television, and called for urgent measures to increase the safety of journalists in the country.
“I condemn the murder of Khaled Al Attar,” the Director-General declared. “The basic human right of freedom of expression covers the gamut of opinions, including humour and satire. Respect for this human right is essential in any society, not least in a society that needs to reconstruct itself after so many years of suffering.”
“I must pay tribute to the journalists who continue working in the extreme conditions prevalent in Iraq today,” Mr Matsuura added. “It is, however, not enough to admire their courage; the authorities in the country must do everything in their power to ensure improved safety for journalists and their collaborators as they carry out their important professional duties.”
Mr Al Attar is reported to have been shot dead in the northern city of Mosul a few hours after he was kidnapped. He worked on Al Irakiya television’s satirical programme “I Don't Give a Damn”, about careless government officials. Mr Al Attar is the ninth journalist murdered in Mosul, according to Reporters Without Borders, which describes the city as the most dangerous in Iraq. Al-Irakiya's headquarters have been the target of several attacks, according to Reporters Without Borders. According to the NGO, Mr Al Attar’s death brings to 61 the number of journalists and media assistants killed in Iraq since March 2003.
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…”