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Iraq: UNESCO chief deplores killing of two journalists

BBC Monitoring

Text of press release by UNESCO on 22 May

    The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending freedom of the press has condemned the murder of two Iraqi news journalists who were ambushed and shot dead as they made their way home from work last week in Baghdad.

    Alaa Uldeen Aziz and Saif Laith Yousuf "paid with their life for our right to know what is happening in the country," UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said in a statement issued today.

    Mr Aziz, 33, and Mr. Yousuf, 26, worked as a cameraman and sound engineer respectively in the Baghdad bureau of ABC News of the United States until gunmen in two cars ambushed them on their way home last Thursday [17 May].

    At least 104 journalists and 39 media support staff have been killed in Iraq since the United States-led invasion in March 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), with the overwhelming majority of victims being Iraqi nationals.

    Mr Matsuura noted in his statement that Iraq has become the deadliest conflict for the press in recent history.

    "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," he said.

    "These brave people are carrying out a mission that is essential for the democratic future of Iraqi society as a whole."

    UNESCO is the only UN agency which has a mandate to defend freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

    Source: UNESCO press release, Paris, in English 22 May 07

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