Director-General condemns killing of Iraqi satirist Walid Hassan and journalists Luma Mohammad Reyad and Fadia Mohammed AbidThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today condemned the violence that left hundreds dead or injured in Baghdad on 23 November and the systematic attacks on freedom of expression, which have claimed the lives of comedian Walid Hassan, and journalists Luma Mohammad Reyad and Fadia Mohammed Abid in recent days.
“I am deeply distressed by the senseless violence unleashed to destroy the unity of the Iraqi nation,” the Director-General said. “These devastating attacks create a climate of hate and sectarianism.”
Mr Matsuura also condemned the deadly campaign against the basic human right of freedom of expression in Iraq: “I condemn the murder of television actor and producer Walid Hassan and of journalists Luma Mohammad Reyad and Fadia Mohammed Abid,” said the Director-General. “Mr Hassan, a comedian, was killed for exercising his freedom to speak his mind, which includes the freedom to use humour. Ms Reyad and Ms Abid are the latest journalists in a roster of heroic victims, dedicated professionals killed in a wanton campaign of violence.”
Mr Hassan, the star of a weekly programme, “Caricatures,” on Al Sharkiya television, was killed as he tried to escape a kidnapping attempt in Baghdad on 21 November. In his programme, Hassan made fun of the U.S. army as well as Iraqi politicians and both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.
Ms Reyad, a reporter for the Al Dustoor newspaper, was killed in Ba'kouba, northeast of Baghdad, on 17 November, according to the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate (IJS). On 15 November, gunmen shot and killed Ms Abid, a journalist for local daily newspaper Al-Masar, and her driver in the east of Mosul.
At least 161 media workers have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war, according to the International Federation of Journalists which reports 60 deaths this year alone.
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 the Organization is requested 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…”