Senior UN officials concerned over journalists’ deaths in Iraq

Senior UN officials concerned over journalists’ deaths in Iraq

Senior United Nations officials have voiced deep concern over the mounting deaths of journalists in Iraq, stressing the “vital role” they play in safeguarding the freedom of information.

“I deplore the fact that so many journalists in Iraq are paying for their commitment to their profession with their lives,” Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in a statement in Paris. “Their chosen task of informing the public is particularly difficult and dangerous in times of war. I wish to express my grief for their heavy losses and my admiration for their courage.”

Referring to three journalists killed in Baghdad yesterday – Reuters news agency cameraman Taras Protsyuk, Spanish television channel Tele 5 cameraman José Couso, and Al-Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayoub – Mr. Matsuura reiterated his call of 26 March for belligerents to respect established international agreements.

“On no account must journalists be targeted,” he said, recalling Article 79 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, which states that “journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians.”

For his part, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, declared: “The right to freedom of information is dealt a fatal blow whenever a journalist is killed or wounded in the performance of his or her vital role.”