Director-General calls for investigation into deaths in detention of media professionals in Bahrain
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova called for an investigation into the deaths of Karim Fakhrawi, a co-founder of the country's only independent newspaper Al-Wasat, and online writer Zakariya Rashid Hassan, both of whom died in prison in Bahrain earlier this month.
"Karim Fakhrawi and Zakariya Rashid Hassan defended the development of a free and pluralistic media, which UNESCO also champions as one of the guarantees for good governance and the respect of human and civic rights," the Director-General said. "The circumstances surrounding their deaths are indeed troubling and I urge the authorities of Bahrain to carry out a thorough investigation into these incidents."
Karim Fakhrawi, 49, was a member of the board of Al-Wasat, which he co-founded in 2002. He died in custody on 12 April, one week after he was arrested. Reporters without Borders (RSF) quotes the authorities as saying that Karim Fakhrawi died of kidney failure, however, this has been contested by his family, who claims he had been in good health at the time of his arrest.
RSF also reports that Zakariya Rashid Hassan died in detention on 9 April. He had been arrested seven days earlier allegedly on charges of inciting hatred, disseminating false news, promoting sectarianism and calling for the regime's overthrow. Zakariya Rashid Hassan moderated a now-closed forum. His family is reported to have rejected the official claim that Zakariya Rashid Hassan died as a result of sickle cell anemia complications.
UNESCO is the 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 the Organization is requested 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..."