UNESCO and Iraqi Journalists Syndicate sign agreement and will work together for press freedom and safety of journalists

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Baghdad, Iraq- 3  May 2015: Celebrating World Press Freedom in Baghdad today, UNESCO and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate (IJS) agreed to strengthen their cooperation to foster freedom of expression, develop the media sector and provide universal access to information and knowledge in Iraq.

To this effect, IJS President Moaiyad al-Lami and UNESCO Representative to Iraq Axel Plathe signed an agreement on behalf of their organizations during an event that IJS and UNESCO organized this morning on the occasion of the Day at Iraqi Journalists Syndicate’s headquarters, in the presence of scores of journalists, human rights activists and members of the international community.

“The agreement that we signed today is a very solid basis to jointly foster the role of media for national reconciliation and increase the safety of journalists”, says Axel Plathe.

“Since 2003, approximately 400 journalists have lost their lives in Iraq, this number is the highest in the world,” stated IJS President Moaiyad al-Lami, urging the government and state institutions to investigate and find out who the perpetrators are. He also underscored that press freedom can only be achieved through an independent media environment based on pluralism, one that they will continue to strive for to ensure the safety of journalists.

The agreement comes in light of the worsening security situation in Iraq which has drastically limited the media’s capacity to report safely and in a non-partisan manner.

As a first concrete action, the agreement foresees the implementation of the project “Enhancing Iraqi journalists’ capacities in conflict sensitive reporting”, that will ensure that the standards of reporting are up to par with internationally recognized standards.

The project will aim, among other goals, to educate journalists on generally-recognized essential standards of practice for professional journalists, the parallels between reliable journalism and conflict mediation, the essential role of objectivity and truth-seeking in reporting on conflict, and the usage  of correct language and framing, important to conflict sensitive reporting.

Overall, initiatives under the agreement will address the safety of journalists and address the issue of impunity of acts of violence against them in the context of the ‘UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity’.  With their focus on enhancing the capacity of media professionals to provide conflict-sensitive, non-partisan information to the public, UNESCO and IJS believe that they will contribute to conflict resolution, peace and democracy in Iraq.

It is increasingly challenging for journalists in Iraq to verify events on the ground and to ensure non-partisan reporting.  In this context, media can play an unintended role in aggravating sectarian disputes.  At times the media itself has been portrayed as a contributor to the stigmatization and incitation of violence through inaccurate and biased reporting, which has further jeopardized the lives of journalists as they are often viewed as parties to the conflict.

Every year, 3 May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

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For more information, please contact: Dhea Subhee (d.subhee@unesco.org)