Director-General condemns murder of TV crew members Atwar Bahjat, Adnan Khairallah and Khaled Mohsen in IraqThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today condemned the murder of a 3-person television crew of Al Arabiya television in Samarra on 22 February.
“I condemn the killing of reporter Atwar Bahjat, cameraman Adnan Khairallah, and soundman Khaled Mohsen,” the Director-General said. “I am appalled by the level of violence directed at the media in Iraq,” Mr Matsuura added. “It is essential that such attacks be stopped and that journalists, who have shown courage and dedication in carrying out their professional duties, be able to continue informing the public freely. The work of journalists is essential for democracy, nowhere more so than in a country that has suffered decades of oppression and strife.”
“I am deeply concerned about reports that spiralling violence is preventing both international and local media from covering events in Iraq,” the Director-General concluded. “Every Iraqi and everyone who cares about the future of Iraq must be horrified to see guns and bullets take the place of thought and debate. It is very dangerous indeed to let gunmen muzzle the public exchange of news and opinions.”
Gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped and killed Atwar Bahjat, a correspondent for Al Arabiya television and two members of her crew: cameraman Adnan Khairallah and soundman Khaled Mohsen. Police are reported to have found the bodies of the three media professionals, all of them Iraqi nationals, on the outskirts of Samarra which was the scene of sectarian violence.
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Atwar Bahjat joined Al Arabiya just two months ago after she received death threats when working for the rival network al-Jazeera. Ms. Bahjat thought her new appointment at al-Arabyia satellite channel would be safer, according to IFJ.
The IFJ says that around 109 journalists and media staff have been killed in Iraq since 2003. The IfJ furthermore reports that three media staff – Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor, and the two Iraqi journalists Rim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal of Sumariya TV – are currently being held.
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…”