UNESCO chief deplores Central Asian attacks on journalists

24 December 2009

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending the freedom of the press today condemned this week's attacks on a journalist reported to have been highly critical of authorities in Kyrgyzstan and a separate suicide bombing in the Peshawar Press Club in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan.

“Violence against the media is particularly reprehensible as it undermines the fundamental human right of freedom of expression and its corollary, press freedom,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in a statement issued today.

The Kyrgyz journalist Gennady Pavlyuk died on Tuesday after being bound around his feet and hands and then thrown from the window of a sixth-floor apartment in Almaty, the largest city in neighbouring Kazakhstan. He had arrived in the city six days earlier.

Mr. Pavlyuk, who was also known under the pseudonym of Ibragim Rustambek, worked as editor of the Kyrgyz edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda and contributed to the independent newspaper Bely Parokhod.

UNESCO stated that Mr. Pavyluk was reported to have been highly critical of Kyrgyz authorities.

Ms. Bokova issued a statement from the agency's Paris headquarters in which she urged that “full light” be shed on the circumstances of the killing.

“It is essential for the whole of Kyrgyz society that the authorities spare no effort in upholding the basic human right of freedom of expression,” Ms. Bokova said. “I am deeply concerned about reports of unacceptable pressure on the press in Kyrgyzstan, which, like every country, requires open debate for its political, social and economic development.”

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a suicide bombing on Tuesday killed four people at the Peshawar Press Club, including Mian Iqbal Shah, a well known accountant for the Club. An additional 23 people were injured, including several journalists.

“Nothing good will come to the people of Pakistan from those who use violence to muzzle informed political debate, and I trust that the authorities will do all they can to ensure that journalists are able to continue exercising their profession,” Ms. Bokova said.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), media personnel in the NWFP, Balochistan – the country’s largest and poorest province, and other sensitive areas had been threatened by terrorist groups, including the Taliban, who want to stop journalists from reporting on their activities. The PFUJ has said that since 11 September 2001, some 45 journalists have been killed and more than 300 wounded in attacks and targeted killings in Pakistan.

The agency is the only UN entity mandated to protect press freedom and throughout the years has drawn attention to killings and other attacks against journalists and media workers.

 

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