Director-General condemns wave of killings and abuses against Iraqi journalistsThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today condemned the killing of six Iraqi reporters and media staff in separate recent incidents, as well as other acts of violence against the media in Iraq.
“I condemn the murder of journalists Khudr Younis al-Obaidi, Yassin Aid Assef, and Falah Khalaf Al Diyali” declared the Director-General. “I am horrified by the number of Iraqi journalists who are paying with their lives for their professional commitment to the fundamental human right of freedom of expression.”
“I must also condemn the different types of pressure applied on the media,” Mr Matsuura added, “notably the kidnapping of Akil Adnan Majid and the reported harassment of journalists in the Kurdistan north of Iraq.”
Recalling the Declaration adopted by participants at the International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Media Development in Iraq, which UNESCO hosted earlier this month, the Director-General added: “Both government officials and media practitioners agree on the essential role of press freedom in the reconstruction of Iraq. They also agree on the need to investigate and bring to justice those guilty of crimes against journalists, I now hope that the authorities on the ground will cooperate in making this wish a reality.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that Khudr Younis al-Obaidi, a reporter for the Al-Diuwan newspaper was killed by unknown gunmen on 15 of January in Mosul, in the north of Iraq.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), several employees of the governmental daily Al Sabah were killed from 12 to 16 January: Two, whose names have not been revealed, were kidnapped from the Al Sabah’s offices in Baghdad on 12 January and were found with their throats cut the next day. Yassin Aid Assef, a correspondent for the daily was killed by a bomb on 14 January while covering a story in Baghdad. On the 15th of January, journalist Falah Khalaf Al Diyali was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
On the 16th, the body of a security guard was found on the roof of Al Sabah’s offices. The newspaper, which reportedly did not want to publish his name, said the guard was probably shot from a distance while patrolling the building's roof. RSF further reports that Akil Adnan Majid, an accountant for Al Sabah, was kidnapped outside the newspaper’s premises in Baghdad on 9 January. No contact has yet been established with his abductors, according to RSF, which says that a total of six journalists and media assistants are currently being held hostage in Iraq.
According to RSF’s tally, a total of 146 journalists and media assistants have been killed since a US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 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…”