Axel Plathe, Director of UNESCO Office for Iraq, condemned today the bombing that targeted the house of Iraqi reporter Maytham Al-Shibani in Diwaniyah, calling for more efficient measures to ensure the safety of media professionals in Iraq.
“On behalf of UNESCO, I strongly condemn the recent attack that targeted Maytham Al-Shibani, and I call the Iraqi authorities to do all they can to reveal the criminals who are behind this vicious act”, said Plathe. “The safety of journalists working in conflict zones and even in safer areas is seriously at risk. More effective measures are required to protect them so that they can perform their duty of informing the Iraqi people and the international community of the evolving situation in Iraq”.
“Freedom of expression and access to information are basic rights that must be uphold, in particular in times of conflict and in war zones where journalists often risk their lives to provide accurate and timely information”, added the Director of UNESCO Office for Iraq. “In this critical situation, citizens, policy makers and the international community rely heavily on journalists. Any attack against journalists and media institutions is intolerable and must be firmly punished”.
According to media and security reports, the house of Al-Hurra’ reporter Maytham Al-Shibani in the province of Diwaniyah was partially destroyed following a bomb attack on Monday 1 September 2014. Reports confirmed that there were no casualties in the attack; the second targeting Al-Shibani in less than a year.
Since the beginning of the present crisis in Iraq, the safety of journalists has been deteriorating dramatically and cases of violence and deliberate attacks against media professionals and institutions escalated to dangerous levels. Since January 2014, at least five journalists were killed – Firas Mohammed Attiyah on 20 January, Muthanna Abdul Hussein and Khaled Abdul Thamer on 9 March, Mohammed Bdaiwi Owaid Al-Shammari on 22 March and Leyla Yildizhan (aka Deniz Firat) on 8 August. Other journalists are facing direct life threats.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova condemned the assassinations in the strongest possible terms stressing that “it is essential that all parties involved in the conflict in the region respect the civilian status of journalists and their right to carry out their professional duties in safe conditions.”.
As the main United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom, UNESCO is collaborating with the Iraqi government, local and international organizations, and journalists to advance freedom of expression and safety of journalists, both offline and online, through a variety of actions. These include awareness raising, capacity building, promoting partnerships and co-ordination of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.
(Journalism image via Shutterstock)