Iraq: union of journalists calls for UN action over media crisis

The International Federation of journalists called on the Secretary General of the United Nations to lead new efforts by the international community in defence of journalists and media in Iraq following the death last week of Shihab Al-Timimi, the President of the Iraqi Union of Journalists. In a letter to UN chief Bang Ki-moon, the IFJ President and General Secretary say that the United Nations must raise its voice to protect journalists and media in Iraq and to encourage more effective action by the government of Iraq and those UN states who have pledged to bring about peace and reconciliation in the country.

“A timely statement of support from the United Nations for Iraqi journalism will show that the international community stands alongside the community of journalists in these dark days,” says the IFJ.

The IFJ, which has also written to Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki, says the UN must support the Iraqi Union of Journalists (IUJ) and their campaign for safety, it must do more to put pressure on governments to defend independent media and it must reinforce efforts through the groundbreaking Security Council Resolution 1738 on journalists’ safety to find and prosecute those who are targeting and killing media workers.

In January the IFJ General Secretary led a mission to Baghdad to discuss plans to strengthen media freedom and improve safety. At that time the Government promised a report on journalists’ killings, but none has emerged.

The IFJ and the International News Safety Institute have worked with the IUJ and the Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate and leading Iraqi media companies to form the Iraq Media Safety group, which is dedicated to improving security for all media workers.

The IFJ says members of the IUJ “face the grim task of chronicling the violence in desperate and dangerous circumstances” including death threats and attempts by armed extremists to close down the union’s operations.

“If the United Nations can act decisively, it will not solve problems overnight, but it will make an immeasurable contribution towards reassuring Iraqi journalists that the international community recognises the current crisis,” says the IFJ, “and it will begin to repay some of the debt that we all owe Shihab A-Timimi and other media workers who have been sacrificed in this terrible conflict.”

Click here for a copy of the letter from IFJ President Jim Boumelha and General Secretary Aidan White.

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