UNESCO expresses deep concern over media freedom in Iraq
UNESCO Representative to Iraq Axel Plathe expressed the Organization’s deep concern over the deteriorating situation as regards to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Iraq, subjects of two reports published lately by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Mr. Plathe considered that the increased number of cases of violence against journalists and the prevalent impunity of these acts have catastrophic results on freedom of expression in the country.
Commenting on the analysis of the status of freedom of expression in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq that the CPJ recently published, UNESCO Iraq Office Director Axel Plathe stated that “as one of the main agencies active in the field of freedom of expression and information, we are extremely worried by these findings”.
The CPJ report “Mountain of Impunity Looms Over Kurdistan Journalists” released on 22 April 2014 presents a comprehensive investigation into the wide spread impunity of anti-press attacks, recording in detail nearly 700 attacks on journalists, including threats, harassment, beatings, detentions, intimidation and arson.
Additionally, and for the sixth year in a row, Iraq ranked first on the CPJ Impunity Index (published on 16 April 2014) which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population. According to the CPJ, no conviction was obtained in 100 journalist murder cases in Iraq since 2003.
“These alarming results confirm UNESCO’ fears,” said Axel Plathe. “A national coalition of government officials, media professionals, legal experts, and human rights activists is needed to change this situation”. UNESCO director also highlighted the major role that media plays during the post conflict phases. “Professional journalism and objective reporting have proven to be key elements for reconciliation process, sustainable peace, and good governance”, he stated.
Political tensions, instability, the Syrian war, and unhelpfulness of the authorities and security forces, are major factors that have a very negative impact on the safety of journalists and the independence of the media in Iraq. Promoting the safety of journalists and combating impunity for those who attack them are central elements within UNESCO´s support for press freedom on all media platforms. Consequently, UNESCO is committed to advancing freedom of press and safety of journalists, both offline and online, through a variety of actions. These include awareness raising, capacity building, promoting partnerships and co-ordination of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.
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