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Iraq Singled Out As UN Marks 20th Press Freedom Day

  • RFE/RL

Azerbaijani journalist Idrak Abbasov in a Baku hospital in April 2012.

Azerbaijani journalist Idrak Abbasov in a Baku hospital in April 2012.

May 3 marks the 20th annual World Press Freedom Day, aimed at calling attention to the fundamental right to freedom of expression and threats to it.

May 3 was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993. Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the day on May 2 at a conference in New York. He said international cooperation under UN supervision is necessary to protect journalists from attacks.

"The violence we condemn today highlights the relevance of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity," he said. "The plan and its recently adopted implementation strategy aim to promote collaboration among governments, regional human rights bodies, nongovernmental organizations, media organizations, and the UN family."

Ban also highlighted the importance of media freedom for democracy and human rights.

"All journalists, across all media, need to be able to do their jobs," he said. "When it is safe to speak, the whole world benefits."

ALSO READ: Sound Bites Aside, Azerbaijanis Have Little To Celebrate This Press Freedom Day

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has, meanwhile, released its annual list countries where journalists are murdered regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes.

The 2013 Impunity Index is led by Iraq, which the CPJ says "has the world’s worst record on impunity," with 93 cases of journalists killed over the past 10 years in which no one was convicted. The vast majority of those killed -- 95 percent -- were local journalists.

Iraq is followed by Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Afghanistan, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, and Brazil.

The CPJ says that although no journalists have been murdered in Afghanistan since 2008, authorities "have shown no progress in pursuing suspects in the five unsolved cases over the past decade."

The CPJ also noted Pakistan’s failure to prosecute a single suspect in the murders of 23 journalists over the past decade and said that five journalists were murdered in 2012 alone.

Russia comes ninth in the index, with 14 unsolved murder cases since 2003. The CPJ says journalists in the North Caucasus have been the most vulnerable in recent years, highlighting the case of Kazbek Gekkiyev, a state television anchor working in the region who was shot dead in December 2012.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International, in a report released to mark the day, said Syrian rebels and regime forces are both responsible for killing, arresting, and torturing scores of journalists.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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