UNESCO head condemns Iraqi journalist’s killing, calls for release of Somali

Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO

9 June 2009 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with upholding press freedom today condemned the killing of an Iraqi sports journalist late last month, while calling for the release of a media executive kidnapped a few days later in Somalia.

Alaa Abdel-Wehab, a 37 year-old correspondent for the independent Cairo-based television channel Al-Baghdadia, died in an explosion from a bomb attached to his car in Mosul, in northern Iraq.

Mr. Abdel-Wehab was in the city working on a story connected to the local Olympic Committee when he was murdered on 31 May, becoming the third journalist killed in Iraq this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In a message condemning the killing, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura also paid tribute “to the unflagging courage of journalists who continue working in Iraq despite the senseless killing of media professionals that has been going on for all too long in the country.”

Mr. Matsuura called for measures to step up security for the media to “support the right of all Iraqis to be informed about events in their country and make informed democratic choices.”

The head of UNESCO also voiced concern over the condition of Sultan Jerjis, a sports presenter with local radio station Al-Rasheed, who was injured in the same attack, and two employees of the state-run Al-Iraqiya television station who were seriously wounded when a so-called “sticky bomb” attached to their car exploded in the Al-A’zamiya district of Baghdad.

On 2 June, an executive from the Universal television channel based in Garasbaley, Somalia, was kidnapped.

Appealing for the unconditional release of Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, Mr. Matsuura said that media professionals have been the targets of “unacceptable violence in Somalia and I call on the authorities to do all in their power to improve the safety of journalists.”

As of the end of May, four reporters had been killed in Somalia this year, and two freelance journalists – Amanda Lindhout of Canada and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan – abducted last August near Mogadishu are still being held by their kidnappers who are demanding a ransom, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).


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