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Director-General calls for safer working conditions for press


The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has called for improved security for journalists and other media workers in areas of conflict or social unrest, to allow them to carry out their professional duties. The call comes after the death of Iraqi television journalist Omar Rasim al-Qaysi who was killed in a suicide bombing on 12 December.

“I deplore the death of Omar Rasim al-Qaysi,” said Ms Bokova. “As bombings and attacks continue in Iraq and other areas of conflict or social unrest, journalists are paying an unacceptably high toll for defending the basic right of freedom of expression. I call on the government of Iraq, and on the governments of all countries where similar campaigns of violence are being waged, to do their utmost to improve security conditions. Only then will journalists be able to carry out their important work in relative safety.”

Omar Rasim al-Qaysi, an anchor working for the satellite television channel Al-Anbar TV, died when a car bomb exploded as he was walking to work in central Ramadi, al-Anbar province. His brother Mustafa al-Qaysi, a cameraman for the same channel, was injured in the attack, which killed at least 13 people and injured 40. The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports.

Ms Bokova’s statement follows the publication last week of year-end analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) of work-related fatalities among journalists. At least 42 journalists were killed in 2010. Suicide attacks and violent street protests caused an unusually high proportion of deaths. The countries ranked the highest for journalism-related killings are Pakistan (8), Iraq (4), Honduras (3) and Mexico (3).

“While the number of journalists killed in 2010 represents a decline from previous years, it nonetheless remains unacceptably high and underlines the violence that journalists confront on a daily basis,” concluded Ms Bokova.

UNESCO is the 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…”


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