Baghdad, Iraq, 4 May 2019 – World Press Freedom Day this year promises to be a milestone for journalists in Iraq, with the Government expected to establish a National Mechanism for the safety of journalists and ending impunity for crimes related to targeting the freedom of expression, after positively responding to the Voluntary National Review of Safety of Journalists and Access to Information.
Iraq to establish a National Plan for the Safety of Journalists
At an event on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, the Iraqi National Committee on Safety of Journalists, together with the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, UNESCO, the United Nations at large, and the International Federation of Journalists focused on the global theme for this year "Media for Democracy-Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation" and the overall goal of defending and protecting journalists.
The event, hosted by the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate in Baghdad, brought together media professionals, senior government and parliamentary officials as well as international and local NGOs active in the field of freedom of expression. It came in the context of the multiple challenges facing the safety of the Iraqi media profession: journalists operate in an extremely volatile environment, reporting from the remaining conflict zones and from the areas liberated from Da'esh, and face threats to their lives.
"The press and media in general can act as a bridge for peace by focusing on what brings people together rather than on what divides them. A free press – even if opinions are contested, rejected or disliked – is necessary to help safeguard the public interest and protect democratic values".
With this progress, Iraq has the potential of becoming a unique model in the region by dealing with issues of press freedoms, access to information and freedom of expression through this national committee, especially if the protection mechanism is approved by the government.
Press Freedom, a pillar of every democratic and open society
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Ms. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said that on this day we reflect on the challenges that journalists face and to stress the importance of ensuring that press freedom remains a pillar of every democratic and open society, that journalists are protected, have access to information and are able to do their job properly.
Mr. Paolo Fontani, Director of the UNESCO Office for Iraq, said that although the country continues to suffer from problems affecting the safety of journalists and their standards of work and professionalism, efforts are being made to address these issues. He commended the Iraq National Committee on the Safety of Journalists for its efforts towards finalising the Voluntary National Review (VNR), and the Iraqi authorities for submitting their second official report on the killing of journalists and judicial follow-up, and for their upcoming establishment of a strengthened national mechanism for the prevention of, and protection against, threats and attacks relating to the freedom of expression.
"With this progress, Iraq has the potential of becoming a unique model in the region by dealing with issues of press freedoms, access to information and freedom of expression through this national committee, especially if the protection mechanism is approved by the government," Mr. Fontani said at the event.
UNESCO has a global mandate to monitor and report on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. The next report on this topic will be presented by the UNESCO Director-General to the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference (October 2019).