Senior UN official urges Syria to end repression and respect freedom of information

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova

10 June 2011 – The head of the United Nations agency that promotes access to information today voiced concern at the escalating violence in Syria and the curtailment of the people's access to communication and information services, as well as the reported attacks and restrictions on journalists.

“Reports coming from Syria are alarming,” Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), stated in a news release. “The rights of citizens must be respected, as must the rights and security of journalists.

“This includes the right to freedom of expression, the need to access information and the ability to communicate. The decision to shut down internet access and cell phone networks, to block broadcasters and prevent journalists from doing their job is not acceptable,” Ms. Bokova added.

Taking note of a promised amnesty and call for national dialogue, Ms. Bokova urged the Syrian authorities to “immediately restore internet and cell phone services for citizens, to lift restrictions on the media and to prevent acts of aggression against journalists, so that they can report freely on events as is their duty.”

Secretary-General also voimced his deep concern over the continuing violence in Syria, including in the north-western town of Jisr-al-Shughur, and its heavy toll on the civilian population.

"The Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect their people and respect their rights. The use of military force against civilians is unacceptable," said a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Mr. Ban said remains convinced that the only way to heed the calls of the Syrian people for peaceful change is by engaging in a fully inclusive national dialogue and the launching of genuine reforms.

Syria has been in the maelstrom of domestic unrest since March when protesters started taking to the streets to demand democratic reform and greater civil liberties. The country's authorities have been widely criticised for their often bloody repression of demonstrations.

The protests are part of a broader uprising this year across North Africa and the Middle East that has already toppled the long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and led to ongoing conflict in Libya.


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