UNESCO chief condemns ‘despicable murder’ of US journalist in Syria

UN Photo/Casey Crafford

3 September 2014 – The head of the UN agency mandated to defend press freedom today expressed shock at the killing of American journalist Steven Sotloff and called for the immediate release of all civilian hostages held by militant groups in Syria.

“I condemn deeply the execution of Steven Sotloff,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova in a statement to the press in which she also expressed her heartfelt condolences to Mr. Sotloff’s family and friends.

Mr. Sotloff, 31, was a freelance journalist who worked for a number of leading United States publications including Time magazine and World Affairs. He was kidnapped in Aleppo, Syria, last summer.

“Steven Sotloff – like James Foley who was murdered in an equally despicable manner two weeks ago – was a brave man who worked as a journalist committed to telling the world what was happening on the ground,” said Ms. Bokova.

It is outrageous that these “brave professionals, who are driven by their desire to find out how people are affected by war and share their stories with the world, should suffer such inhumane treatment,” said the Director-General.

Governments must strengthen the safety of journalists by ensuring that those responsible for such violence are held accountable, she urged.

Last month, the UN Security Council strongly condemned the “heinous and cowardly” murder of American journalist James Foley by the militant group Islamic State (IS) and stressed that those responsible for the killing must be held accountable.

According to UNESCO, more than 430 journalists have been killed between 2007 and 2012. The UN agency maintains a webpage dedicated to condemning the killing of journalists, in line with Resolution 29, adopted by its Member States in 1997.

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