UNESCO chief condemns 'heinous' assassination of Colombian journalist

10 February 2004

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the “heinous” assassination of an outspoken Colombian journalist and called for the punishment of those responsible.

“Democracy cannot be considered to be securely established while those who use the gun to curtail freedom of expression enjoy impunity for their crimes and I welcome moves by the authorities to collect information on this case,” Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said of Oscar Alberto Polanco Herrera, known for his broadcasts criticizing authority, who was murdered in the city of Cartago

“It is unacceptable and must be punished,” he added. Citing a 1997 UNESCO resolution calling for action to prosecute and punish crimes against journalists, he said, “it is essential that the authorities investigate this heinous crime.”

While appreciating Colombia's efforts, Mr. Matsuura noted that it remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. According to professional organizations 5 journalists were killed there in 2003, nearly 60 kidnapped, threatened or assaulted, and more than 20 forced to leave their region and, in some cases, the country.


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