UNESCO conference issues recommendations on media independence in IraqIraqi journalists, members of parliament and government officials reached an unprecedented agreement about measures to protect and promote free and pluralistic media in Iraq during the International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Media Development in Iraq, held at UNESCO Headquarters from 8 to 10 January.
The essential role of free, pluralistic and independent media in any democratic society is recognized in the Declaration adopted by the participants on Wednesday. They also addressed concerns regarding the safety of journalists and media regulation.
The adopted text reflects debates among the 300-odd participants at the Conference. They included nearly 200 Iraqi nationals: journalists, as well as some 20 members of the Iraqi parliament and government officials.
The safety of journalists in Iraq, which has become the world’s worst killing field for media professionals, was central at the conference. The participants agreed that journalists must retain their status as civilians in times of conflict (as stipulated by the Geneva Convention), that the highest priority should be given to the investigation of crimes against journalists and that such crimes should no longer go unpunished. The Declaration also calls for the establishment of a national fund to provide support to the families of journalists who have been killed in the line of duty.
On the subject of media regulation, participants said that the Iraqi National Communication and Media Commission should continue to function as an independent regulatory body, that the Iraqi Media Network should continue functioning as an independent public service broadcaster and journalists and media should be able to form associations and regulate their own professional themselves.
In their Declaration the participants clearly linked democracy and development with human rights and emphasized the important role of women in the media and in the process of reconstruction. The three-day conference was organized by the Iraqi National Communication and Media Commission of Iraq, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNESCO.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, welcomed the outcome of the Conference: “I welcome the Declaration, the outcome of the participatory process that characterized this conference. I trust that the recommendations it contains will mark a mile stone in the development of a free, just and democratic society in Iraq.”