Director-General condemns killing of U.S. reporter Steven Vincent in Basra and calls for improved safety
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the killing in Basra, in southern Iraq, of Steven Vincent, a freelance reporter from the U.S.A., on August 2. He also urged that greater priority be given to improve the safety of journalists in the country.
"I condemn the murder of Steven Vincent," the Director-General said, "and I denounce the cowardice and brutality of his killers who also injured Nour Weidi, Mr Vincent's Iraqi translator. Such acts only contribute to prolong the suffering of the people of Iraq. There can be no ethical or religious justification for the killing of brave individuals who take enormous risks to keep Iraq and the world informed. Attacking them," Mr Matsuura added, "is tantamount to attacking democracy and rule of law, in other words, to attacking the people of Iraq themselves. I call on all those in position of authority in the country to give due priority to improving the safety of media professionals who have paid an unacceptable toll in the exercise of their profession in Iraq."
According to Iraqi police reports, Mr Vincent and Ms Weidi were kidnapped by five gunmen in Basra and were later shot. Ms Weidi was reported to have been seriously injured. The International News Safety Institute reports that 80 journalists and media support staff have been killed since the start of the war in Iraq.
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to "further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations." To realize this purpose the Organization is required to "collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image..."