Tuesday, April 1, 2008

UNESCO acknowledges no media deaths in Sri Lanka in 2007

UNESCO has accepted that not a single journalist had been killed in Sri Lanka in 2007. UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura’s report for 2007 listed names of 53 journalists killed in number countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia DPR Congo, Palestine and Myanmar.

There had been no killings of journalist in Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Russia, Colombia, Ecuador, Lebanon and Pakistan, where there had been killings of journalists in the previous year. The Director General of UNESCO stated this in his report submitted to the Intergovernmental Committee of the International Programme for Development of Communications held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from March 26 to 28. Sugeeswara Senadhira, Minister Counsellor of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Paris represented Sri Lanka at this meeting.

Analysts pointed out that UNESCO Director General’s report is an admittance that the Voice of Tigers, the broadcasting arm of the LTTE could not be considered as a civil media institution. In November 2007, three LTTE cadres working at the Voice of Tigers died when the clandestine broadcasting station was attacked by Sri Lanka Air Force. In December 2007, Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO has issued a statement on the incident and the Government of Sri Lanka pointed out that UNESCO had no mandate to issue a statement on the aerial attack on a terrorist broadcasting station.
The Intergovernmental Council of IPDC unanimously denounced attacks targeting journalists and urged Member States to comply with relevant obligations under international law to end impunity for such crimes.

The adopted decision, announced by the newly elected IPDC Chairman, Ambassador Walter Fust (Switzerland), recalls UN Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006), which refers to the Geneva Conventions and to the responsibility of Member States to prosecute those responsible for “serious violations.” The Council’s decision requests Member States to assume responsibility for monitoring the investigation of killings condemned by the Director-General of UNESCO and informing the Organization of actions taken and of the status of the judicial inquires conducted into each case.

Over the past two years, UNESCO has publicly condemned the killings of 121 journalists – 68 in 2006 and 53 in 2007. The 26th Council session hosted a debate which underlined the challenges of protecting journalists, and proposed measures to encourage higher level advocacy both nationally and internationally. Rodney Pinder of the International News Safety Institute maintained that impunity continues to be a major problem and that insufficient measures are in place to ensure the safety of journalists in the field.

Representing UNESCO’s Director-General, Mogens Schmidt stressed the importance of Member States’ compliance with existing commitments, namely Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1997, which requested governments to adopt the principle that there should be no statutes of limitations for crimes against a person when these are perpetrated to prevent freedom of information and expression. Toby Mendel, Law Programme Director at the human rights organization Article 19, argued that crimes against journalists not only violate their freedom of expression but also the right of other people to receive information. He highlighted the need for a supportive structural framework to counter impunity.

Ambassador Walter Fust of Switzerland was elected as new Chairman of IPDC. 38 countries, including the United States, Switzerland, Denmark and Russia are members of the Intergovernmental Committee.

Courtesy: Asian Tribune

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