Tuesday, 03 May 2011 03:00

Joint UNAMI/UNESCO Iraq Press Release on the Occasion the World Press Freedom Day

Baghdad, 3 May 011- The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Iraq Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) congratulate the Iraqi press corps on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. They commend them for their courage and pay tribute to the Iraqi journalists who lost their lives and those who continue to be subjected to persecution, intimidation and violence.


“Freedom of expression and opinion, including press freedom, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is the most precious and fundamental of our democratic rights and it must be vigorously protected”, said Mr. Ad Melkert, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq.

Around the world, journalists and citizens alike are coming together today to celebrate the critical role an independent media plays as a pillar of open, free and democratic societies.  This year, the focus of our celebration globally and in Iraq is on the role of New Media--blogging, social networking, and mobile telephones--now play in informing people about their communities.  

The formidable change in the media landscape and the effect the word is witnessing across the globe – and in recent months, in countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East, including Iraq demonstrate the relevance of the theme of this year’s celebration :” 21st Century media: News Frontiers, New Barriers”.

However, despite the opportunities offered by the new media, freedom of expression and opinion continues to face various challenges, old and new. In Iraq, according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, in the last year, 12 journalists lost their lives, on average, one a month, murdered because they were journalists.  Hundreds of others have been hurt or threatened while doing their job. “This is one of the reasons why World Press Freedom Day is important.  It gives us an opportunity to gauge the health of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, to draw attention to the challenges that they face on a daily basis and to bolster our efforts where necessary,” said Mr. Mohamed Djelid, Director of the UNESCO Iraq office.

In Iraq, freedom of expression and opinion is protected expressly by Article 38 of the Constitution. On the basis of guidelines by the UN Human Rights Committee, the protection of this right should include the duty to investigate allegations of attacks, intimidation or harassment directed at journalists, human rights defenders and all other persons. “I call on the Government of Iraq to ensure that the right to freedom of opinion and expression of all Iraq’s people is fully protected – that any person who is found responsible for acts of threats or intimidation aimed at limiting the lawful exercise of the right must be held accountable according to the law”, SRSG Melkert said.

“It would be important to reconsider the sections of the Iraqi Criminal Code, which make libel a criminal offense. I would emphasise that the right to freedom of opinion and expression should only be restricted as clearly defined exceptions, not as a rule”, SRSG further stated. SRSG Melkert also emphasized the need for the Council of Representatives to support the development of an Access to Information law in line with international standards. “This is an important step in fighting corruption, one of the principle demands of Iraqi citizens”, SRSG Melkert said

“Freedom of expression is the bedrock principle of democracy and this is particularly relevant to Iraq and its quest to affirm itself as an irreversible democracy and while the State institutions have a major role in ensuring the effective protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression, it is incumbent on all Iraqis to ensure that the right is respected and protected”, SRSG Melkert said. “Without the preparedness of ordinary people to exercise the right, and their willingness to protect this right when it is exercised by others, even when we disagree with them, true democracy cannot flourish,” SRSG Melkert said.



For more information, please contact:

Mr. George Papagiannis, Programme Specialist, UNESCO Iraq Office- Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ms. Radhia Achouri, Director of Public Information/Spokesperson, UNAMI, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last modified on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 03:00

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