Director-General deplores death of Iraqi television journalist Mahmoud Za’al and calls for improved safety for media workersThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today deplored the death on the 23rd of January of Mahmoud Za’al, journalist for TV Baghdad who was reporting on fighting in the city of Ramadi. He further called for measures to improve the safety of media personnel in Iraq.
“I deplore the death of Mahmoud Za’al,” the Director-General declared. “All too many journalists have been dying in Iraq. Media professionals are showing incredible courage in carrying out their commitment to keep the public informed. Their invaluable contribution to democracy inspires great respect and I call on the authorities to do their utmost to improve the safety of all media professionals in the country, in the interest of democracy and of the basic human right of freedom of expression.”
Mr Za’al, 35, was killed while reporting on clashes in Ramadi some 100 kilometres west of Baghdad. Thirty-five journalists were killed in Iraq in 2005, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
The safety of journalists is a major concern for UNESCO, which, with the International News Safety Institute (INSI), has been organizing safety training for reporters in conflict zones, such as Indonesia, Iraq, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo. The two also organized a regional seminar on the issue for the Arab States. UNESCO has also launched awareness raising programmes on issues relating to freedom of expression targeting media professionals, members of parliament, teachers and civilian police.
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…”