Lack of freedom hindering media, says UN official

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Daisy

Close to 800 journalists and news photographers have been killed while performing duties in the last 15 years but in more than 90% of the cases their killers have gone unpunished, a senior Unesco official said yesterday.

Speaking at a forum organised by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, Unesco Doha office director Dr Anna Paolini said many of the region’s journalists, like their counterparts elsewhere, had been facing severe challenges all along and there had been many instances of their detention and arrest for reporting issues that went against the interests of the countries where they worked.

Stressing that journalists faced an uphill task in the absence of freedom of expression as is seen in parts of the region, the official said the UN and its affiliates have repeatedly highlighted the difficulties faced by media in gathering and disseminating information on account of extremely difficult situations prevailing in many countries.

She said the UN has repeatedly condemned the attacks on media and killings of journalists and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had frequently instructed authorities of many countries to recognise the round the clock work that many
journalists carry out.

Paolini said a free press would not only serve as a corrective force in a democratic state but would also help its residents gather a lot of information which is otherwise denied to those living in countries without freedom of
expression.

While paying tributes to those journalists who worked under difficult conditions, the Unesco official said it is in recognition of their exemplary work that their organisation has instituted awards and other accolades at regular intervals which are usually not there in their place of work.

Khalid al-Jawher, assistant director, Al Jazeera Network, said the forum organised by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom has showed how important and inevitable is the freedom of expression for the smooth functioning of a free press.

At the start of the meeting editors and journalists who attended the forum displayed placards hailing the importance of the day.