(un.org) - The "ferocious and systematic attacks" on journalists and media outlets in Iraq undermine any attempts to establish democracy in the war-torn country and overcome decades of oppression and violence, the head of the United Nations organization entrusted with defending freedom of the press has warned.
"The international community and the authorities in Iraq must take determined action to support the media in this appalling struggle over freedom of expression, a basic human right that is the cornerstone to all human rights," UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Ko?chiro Matsuura said, deploring last week's assault on Baghdad's Shaabiya satellite television station, which killed 11 people. Among the dead was the channel's General Director, Abdul-Rahim Nasrallahal-Shimari, reports Trend.
"The reconstruction of a democracy and the return to peace and rule of law in a country that has suffered so much violence and oppression over decades depend to a significant extent on the ability of both public service and independent media to carry
out their work," said Mr. Matsuura in the latest of many statements condemning the slaughter of media personnel in Iraq since the United States-led invasion in 2003.
"Improving the safety of the valiant professionals who work in such appalling conditions and at such personal risk must be recognized as a priority."
He noted that last week's assault was the second attack on an Iraqi TV station in as many weeks, after a car bomb exploded outside the Al-Rafidain TV station killing two pedestrians and injuring five station employees. Also this month the body of a kidnapped reporter, Azad Muhammad Hussein of Radio Dar Al-Salam, was found, reportedly showing signs of torture.
Since then, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has reported that unidentified gunmen kidnapped the editor-in-chief of the private weekly Nabad Al-Shabab, Ali Kareem, and have demanded $50,000 ransom from the journalist's family.