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Iraq: after reporters’ murder, free press is vital

Iraq: after reporters’ murder, UN envoy warns free press is vital for democracy

Condemning the recent murder of three Iraqi journalists, the top United Nations envoy in Iraq warned today that freedom of the press was an absolute prerequisite for democracy in a country that has become the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

More than 70 journalists have been killed on duty in Iraq since the war began three years ago.

“Journalists should be granted security and freedom of speech so they can perform their duties,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Ashraf Qazi said, calling on Iraqi security authorities to fully investigate these crimes and bring the perpetrators before the law.

Prominent journalists killed over the last three weeks include Mohsen Khodeir, editor-in chief of the weekly Alef Baa, Amjad Hamid from Al Iraqia TV and Monsef Al Khaldi reporter at Baghdad Satellite TV.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), whose mandate includes the defence of freedom of expression and press freedom, also condemned the latest murders.

“The level of brutality in Iraq has reached appalling proportions,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement. “It is essential for the consolidation of democracy and rule of law in Iraq that the authorities do all in their power to improve the safety of media professionals in the country.”

In the latest of his frequent condemnations of the murder of journalists around the world that he has issued in recent months, Mr. Matsuura today also condemned the murder of a Mexican freelance press photographer shot dead last week in the state of Michoacán.

Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo, a former correspondent for the Morelia-based daily La Voz de Michoacán, was shot by an unknown gunman while waiting for a bus with his five-year-old son. His son was not hurt. Mr Olvera provided photographs and crime tips to local media on a free-lance basis.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that four Mexican journalists have been killed in direct reprisal for their work in the last five years and that another reporter has been missing since last April and is feared dead.

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