Paris, 7 January – UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today paid homage to the 12 victims of the savage attack against the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris. Eight of those killed when two masked gunmen opened fire on an editorial meeting at the magazine’s offices, were journalists. They included four renowned cartoonists, Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut (Cabu), Bernard Verlhac (Tignous) and Stephane Charbonnier (Charb). At least another 11 people were injured and several remain in critical condition.
“Never before has one media outlet been so deliberately targeted and its staff decimated in an act of such extreme violence,” the Director-General said. “Today’s unprecedented and horrifying attack is a tragic reminder to us all that the right to freedom of expression is fragile, and that those who defend it may pay the ultimate price for doing so.
“At the same time, the spontaneous demonstrations that this appalling crime has provoked across France and around the world - the outpouring of sorrow and anger expressed by citizens from all faiths - also reveal that freedom of expression is a right that is cherished, and understood by all as being at the heart of healthy, functioning societies.
“Charlie Hebdo championed this right fiercely, often drawing sharp criticism, threats and other attacks. But its journalists and cartoonists bravely held their ground, passionate in their conviction that freedom of expression must be defended against all odds.
“We at UNESCO share this conviction and defend and promote freedom of expression and press freedom in all of our work; whether it be working with governments to improve journalists’ safety, raising public awareness of the importance of a vital, pluralistic and free media; or developing training programmes to hone journalists’ reporting skills.
“This cowardly attack stands condemned by the entire world. Those responsible must be brought to justice and punished. But beyond that, governments and civil society must remain firm before such aggression, and refuse any attempt to undermine the hard-fought values that people everywhere hold so dear.
“I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims of today’s attack.”
UNESCO lowered the UN flag to half-mast at its Paris Headquarters in solidarity with France, and in respect for those killed and injured.
UNESCO is the UN organisation with a mandate to promote freedom of expression as well as media freedom, and to enhance the safety of journalists. The Organisation takes this forward across the world, standing up to condemn every time a journalist is killed and to call for effective justice. UNESCO is leading the UN Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists, working with Governments across the world, and leading the action of the UN system as a whole.