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UNESCO Deplores Killings Of Journalists

UNESCO Deplores Killings Of Journalists In India, Mexico And Pakistan

New York, Dec 1 2008 6:10PM

The United Nations agency entrusted with defending press freedom has called on India, Mexico and Pakistan to take greater steps to protect reporters from an increasing number of attacks after the murders of four journalists in the three countries over the past month.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura issued separate statements today to condemn the killings of Jagajit Saikia in Assam state, India, Mexican crime reporter Armando Rodriguez in the city of Ciudad Juárez and Pakistani journalists Abdul Razzak Johra and Qari Mohammad Shoaib, all of which occurred in November.

Mr. Saikia, a correspondent for the Assamese-language daily Amar Asom, was shot by armed men while riding home on his motorcycle in the town of Kokrajhar – an area prey to recent unrest – on 22 November.

Mr. Saikia was the second journalist to be murdered in north-eastern India last month, and at least 16 media workers have been killed in Assam alone since 1991, UNESCO said, citing figures from the International Federation of Journalists.

In his statement today Mr. Matsuura stressed that the civilian status of journalists working in conflict areas must be respected.

“The fundamental human right of freedom of expression and the public’s right to be informed about the situation in troubled areas are essential for democracy and rule of law,” he said.

Mr. Rodriguez, 40, who worked for the local paper El Diario, was shot dead by unidentified men on the morning of 13 November as he sat in his car in his garage. His daughter, who was with him at the time, was unhurt.

Ciudad Juárez has been struck by a wave of drug-related violence this year that has claimed at least 1,000 lives this year. Across Mexico, 24 journalists have been murdered since 2000 and seven others have disappeared in the past three years.

Mr. Matsuura urged Mexican authorities to make improvements in the safety of journalists operating in the country.

“The cold-blooded slaying… highlights the long-recognized link between freedom of expression and rule of law,” he said. “The ruthless criminal campaign being waged against the media in Mexico must be brought to an end.”

In Pakistan, Mr. Johra, a 45-year-old reporter for the Royal TV network, was dragged from his home by six armed men on 3 November and killed. Local drug dealers are believed responsible for the killing.

Mr. Shoaib, who worked for Azadi and Khabar Kar newspapers, was shot dead on 8 November by security forces operating in the north-western Swat valley, allegedly because he failed to stop his vehicle when signalled to do so. UNESCO quoted the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists as saying security forces had admitted the killing was a mistake.

Several other attacks on journalists took place last month in Pakistan, where at least seven media workers have been slain this year. On 14 November the bureau chief of the Tokyo daily Asahi Shimbun and a correspondent for the United States magazine Newsweek both suffered serious injuries as they escaped a kidnapping attempt in Peshawar.

Khadija Abdul Qahar, a Canadian journalist who publishes a web-based magazine, Jihad Unspun, is also missing after being kidnapped with her interpreter and guide in the North Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan on 11 November.

Mr. Matsuura said he was gravely concerned by the spike in attacks and kidnappings of both domestic and foreign journalists in Pakistan.

“I trust that the authorities will spare no effort in supporting the media’s right to carry out their professional duties at the service of society as a whole.”

ENDS

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