Celebration of World Press Freedom Day Organized by the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate

Baghdad, 4 May 2019 Remarks by Paolo Fontani, Director, UNESCO Iraq Office

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and pleasure to be with you today on the occasion of the celebration of the World Press Freedom Day 2019. I would like to thank the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate for organizing this event and, all of you, for your commitment to defending and promoting freedom of expression and of the press in Iraq. Allow me to pay tribute to all Iraqi journalists, all of you here, for your resilience and courage in performing your profession sometimes in very difficult circumstance and at great risk.
Every year, around the world, 3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and safety of journalists. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of the truth.  
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme chosen for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy-Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”. World Press Freedom Day underlines that - more than ever - free, independent and professional journalism is essential in democracies, by providing citizens with verified and reliable sources of information to make decisions, notably during elections.
Due to war and conflicts Iraq suffers from problems affecting the safety of journalists and affects the standards of journalism performance and professionalism. The Iraqi journalists’ family lost three journalists over the last 12 months, with 169 cases since 2006-2019. Of these, just three cases were solved, which shows that impunity is at a very high level.
We commend the commitment of the Iraq National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and Issues of Impunity, and consider this is the right step in the right direction. Today also, the committee finalizes the Voluntary National Review of SDG 16.10.1 and 2, which is regarded as an achievement as Iraq submits for the first time its Review.
I would like to commend the Iraqi authorities for the concrete steps taken in this regard.
1. One year ago, Iraq submitted its second official report on the killing of journalists and judicial follow-up, in response to the UNESCO Director-General’s request for information on this matter. This was a very important step for enhanced governmental transparency and accountability.
2. Today, we look forward and hope that the government will sign the decree of establishment of the national mechanism for the prevention of and protection against threats and attacks on freedom of expression.

The UNESCO Iraq Office looks forward to work hand-in-hand with all stakeholders to ensure the effective implementation of the safety mechanism. In this, we will be guided by one common ultimate goal: to curb the number of attacks, to address impunity.
With this progress, Iraq has the potential of becoming a unique model in the region by dealing with issues of press freedoms, access to information and freedom of expression through this national committee, especially if the protection mechanism is approved by the government.

Thank you.

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