UNESCO Director-General condemns murder of two Iraqi news journalists

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today condemned the murder of Alaa Uldeen Aziz and Saif Laith Yousuf, both Iraqi journalists working for ABC News in Baghdad, on 17 May.

"I condemn the murder of Alaa Uldeen Aziz and Saif Laith Yousuf, two young Iraqis who paid with their life for our right to know what is happening in the country. The horror I feel by the huge number of journalists and media workers killed in Iraq, is only offset by my admiration for the professionals who continue risking life and limb to preserve the basic human right of freedom of expression in Iraq. These brave people are carrying out a mission that is essential for the democratic future of Iraqi society as a whole."

Gunmen in two cars ambushed and killed 33-year old cameraman Alaa Uldeen Aziz and 26-year-old sound engineer Saif Laith Yousuf on their way home from ABC News' Baghdad bureau. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) at least 104 journalists, including Aziz and Yousuf, and 39 media support staffers have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, making Iraq the deadliest conflict for the press in recent history. About four in five journalists killed in the country have been Iraqis, according to the CPJ.

UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to "further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations." To realize this purpose the Organization is required to "collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image..."