Murder of Bangladeshi journalist condemned by UNESCO chief

27 October 2004
UNESCO head Koïchiro Matsuura

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the murder of a Bangladeshi journalist and voiced concern about the increasing frequency of such killings in the country.

"Attacks on media professionals assault democracy, which depends on citizens' ability to make informed choices," Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement issued at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. "Journalists play an indispensable role in informing society and feeding open debate. Attacks against them and their independence therefore undermine society at large."

Shahid Anwar, assistant editor of the Daily Asian Express, was reported to have been shot Sunday by unidentified attackers who stormed his office in Dhaka. According the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), he is the second journalist killed in Bangladesh in two months and the fifth this year.

Mr. Matsuura said he was "deeply concerned" over the rise in the number of assassinations of journalists in Bangladesh. "These crimes mark a deterioration in the media's capacity to exercise their professional commitment to collect and disseminate facts and opinions, and must not go unpunished," he said.

Mr. Anwar's assassination follows on the heels of the murders last week of reporters in Belarus and the Philippines.

Veronika Cherkasova, a journalist for the independent Belarus newspaper Solidarnost, was found dead last Wednesday in her apartment in Minsk with close to 20 knife wounds, according to the International Press Institute. She had been collecting material for an article on the work of religious sects in Belarus.

On 19 October, Filipino radio commentator Eldy Gabinales, also known as Eldy Sablas, was shot as he was riding his tricycle in Tandag, Surigao del Sur, the IFJ said, quoting unconfirmed reports by its affiliated National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) suggesting that Mr. Gabinales may have been killed over his vocal opposition to alleged illegal drug trades and illegal gambling in his town. He often expressed these views in a programme he hosted on local Radio DXJR-FM.

"Seeing media professionals executed because they are brave enough to denounce illegal activities is intolerable," Mr. Matsuura said. "These murders highlight the fact that journalists play a vital role not only in sustaining democracy but also in contributing to the rule of law."

According to the IFJ, Mr. Gabinales was the eighth journalist to be killed in the Philippines this year and the 57th since 1986, when democracy was restored to the country.


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