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Iraqi journalists and officials rally for freer Iraqi media at UN-backed conference

Iraqi journalists and officials rally for freer Iraqi media at UN-backed conference

Iraqi journalists, parliamentarians and government officials have united to call for the protection and promotion of a free and pluralistic media at a conference held at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris.

In a Declaration adopted during the International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Media Development in Iraq, held from 8 to 10 January, participants also addressed the safety of journalists, according to UNESCO, which in a press release called the war-ravaged country “the world’s worst killing field for media professionals.”

The text was the result of discussion and debates among the approximately 300 Conference participants, of whom nearly 200 were Iraqi nationals. Along with UNESCO, the Conference was organized by the Iraqi National Communication and Media Commission of Iraq and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, who is mandated to champion press freedom, lauded the Declaration and the participatory process that lead to it. “I trust that the recommendations it contains will mark a mile stone in the development of a free, just and democratic society in Iraq,” he said.

Iraq remains an extremely perilous place for journalists, and Conference participants agreed that journalists must hold civilian status in times of conflict, as stated in the Geneva Convention which governs the treatment of civilians in times of conflict. They also called for an end for impunity for crimes committed against journalists as well as for the creation of a national fund to support families of slain journalists.

Participants also discussed the key role of women in both the media and Iraqi reconstruction efforts. In addition, the Declaration identified that human rights must be upheld for democracy to flourish and development to progress.