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‘Senseless Violence’ Seeks to Destroy Iraqi Unity

‘Senseless Violence’ Seeks to Destroy Iraqi Unity, UNESCO Chief Warns

New York, Nov 28 2006 9:00AM

Warning that “senseless violence” could destroy the unity of the Iraqi nation, the head of the United Nations body mandated to protect freedom of expression today deplored recent attacks that have left hundreds dead or injured in Baghdad and claimed the lives of a comedian and two journalists.

“These devastating attacks create a climate of hate and sectarianism,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in his latest cry of alarm over the mounting toll, which has claimed at least 161 media workers in Iraq since the start of the United States-led war in March 2003, with 60 deaths this year alone, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

“I am deeply distressed by the senseless violence unleashed to destroy the unity of the Iraqi nation,” he added.

More than 200 people are estimated to have been killed in an assault on the mainly Shiite Sadr City neighbourhood last week while scores more died in ensuing attacks.

Also killed were comedian Walid Hassan and journalists Luma Mohammad Reyad and Fadia Mohammed Abid. Mr Hassan, the star of a weekly programme “Caricatures” on Al Sharkiya television died as he tried to escape a kidnapping attempt in Baghdad. He made fun of the US army, Iraqi politicians, and both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.

Ms. Reyad reported for the Al Dustoor newspaper and Ms Abid was a journalist for the daily newspaper Al-Masar in Mosul.

“Mr Hassan, a comedian, was killed for exercising his freedom to speak his mind, which includes the freedom to use humour,” Mr. Matsuura said. “Ms. Reyad and Ms. Abid are the latest journalists in a roster of heroic victims, dedicated professionals killed in a wanton campaign of violence.”

UNESCO has a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom, and Mr. Matsuura has issued frequent condemnations of the murder of journalists around the world.


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