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UNESCO chief deplores murder of journalists in Iraq, Philippines

UNESCO chief deplores murder of journalists in Iraq, Philippines

Koïchiro Matsuura
Continuing his campaign in defence of freedom of the press, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has condemned the murder of two more journalists – one in Iraq, the other in the Philippines – and called for urgent measures to increase the protection of reporters.

Khaled Sabih Al Attar, a satirical programme producer on Iraq's Al-Irakiya television, is reported to have been shot dead in the northern city of Mosul a few hours after he was kidnapped. He worked on the satirical programme "I Don't Give a Damn," about careless government officials.

"The basic human right of freedom of expression covers the gamut of opinions, including humour and satire," UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement yesterday. "Respect for this human right is essential in any society, not least in a society that needs to reconstruct itself after so many years of suffering."

Paying tribute to the journalists who continue working in the extreme conditions prevalent in Iraq today, Mr Matsuura added: "It is, however, not enough to admire their courage; the authorities in the country must do everything in their power to ensure improved safety for journalists and their collaborators as they carry out their important professional duties."

Mr. Al Attar is the ninth journalist murdered in Mosul, according to Reporters Without Borders, which said his death brought to 61 the number of journalists and media assistants killed in Iraq since March 2003.

Philippines' radio journalist Rolando Morales, murdered in General Santos City, served on the local anti-crime task force through which he became aware of illegal drug-related activities, which he sometimes exposed in his programme. He also reportedly accused several officials in General Santos City of involvement in summary executions.

"His brutal killing shows how disturbing the work of journalists is to criminals determined to continue operating out of sight," Mr. Matsuura said. "It is essential that all possible measures be taken to punish those responsible for such crimes."

According to the Manila-based Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Mr. Morales is the fifth journalist to be killed in the Philippines this year. Six journalists died in the line of duty in 2004, and seven in 2003.

Mr. Matsuura's statement was the latest in a long series of condemnations he has issued recently over attacks on journalists around the world. UNESCO's mandate includes the defence of freedom of expression and press freedom.