The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today expressed dismay over the death of journalist Mohammed Abdullahi Khalif, killed in a shoot out in Galkayo, Puntland (Somalia), and voiced concern about the insecure work environment of journalists in the country.
"I am appalled by the death of Mohammed Abdullahi Khalif, shot while he was reporting on his city's arms market," the Director-General declared. "Journalists in Somalia, have to work in terrible conditions of insecurity conditions. They risk their lives to provide unbiased and reliable information and deserve our admiration and support. By requesting improved security for media professionals, we protect press freedom and freedom of expression. I call on all parties to put a stop to attacks on media professionals."
Mohammed Abdullahi Khalif worked for Voice, a radio station in Galkayo. According to the Union of Somali Journalists, it is not known whether he was targeted or whether he was shot accidentally in a crossfire, when soldiers tried to retrieve a stolen weapon.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported several recent events that suggest that journalists and media have become a target. The Ayaamaha newspaper was bombed on 5 May and a passer-by was killed. The private broadcaster, HornAfrik, was bombed several times the same day and two of its staff were injured. Another broadcaster, the Global Broadcasting Corporation, was bombed on 19 April and its equipment was damaged.
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 the Organization is requested 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..."