The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today deplored the killing of Iraqi journalist Samir Al-Sheikh Ali on 17 November and called on the authorities to ensure this crime does not go unpunished.
“I condemn the murder of Samir Al-Sheikh Ali,” the Director-General said. “It is essential that the authorities investigate this crime and bring its culprits to justice. Freedom of expression is a basic human right which takes its full meaning in societies with a free press. Governments should ensure that the media are able to carry out their work safely and that those who attack them are not let off scot free.”
Al-Sheikh Ali, 61, was the editor of a website, Al-Jamahir Al-Baghdadiya (The Baghdad Masses). He was shot three times while driving in the centre of Baghdad. The journalist has been described as a human rights and freedom of information activist.
The killing of Al-Sheikh Ali brings to three the number of journalists and media workers killed in Iraq over the past year. They are remembered in the dedicated webpage, UNESCO Condemns Killing of Journalists.
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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…”