The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom on Wednesday condemned the recent killing of a journalist in Syria, and expressed concerns over the death of three Eritrean media workers who had been kept in a prison camp for over a decade.
In a news release, UNESCO Executive Director Irina Bokova said she was "appalled" at the killing of Syrian journalist Musab Mohamed Said al-Oudaallah.
Oudaallah was reportedly killed at his home in the Syrian capital of Damascus on August 22. He was a journalist for the arts and culture section of the government newspaper Tishreen. According to Reporters Without Borders, he also published articles critical of the government under a pseudonym.
"Once again, I call on all those fighting in Syria to respect the civilian status of reporters and the basic human right of freedom of expression," Bokova was quoted as saying in the release.
UNESCO estimates that at least 28 local and international journalists have been killed so far this year in Syria, which has been witnessing unabated violence since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago.
More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, are believed to have died in Syria since the fighting broke out. Media reports indicate a major escalation of violence in recent weeks in several towns and villages, as well as the country's two biggest cities, Aleppo and Damascus.
Bokova also spoke out over the death of Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab and Wedi Itay, who were reported to have been arrested separately in 2001 and kept in a prison camp in Eritrea for over a decade.
She urged the authorities in the African nation to respect journalists' fundamental rights to freedom of expression and free those detained over issues related to these rights.
"I deplore the detention of journalists in Eritrea, whose only offense is that they tried to exercise the inalienable human right of freedom of expression. I call on the Eritrean authorities to free all such prisoners. Journalists must be able to perform their duties and keep the public informed without fearing for their lives," she added.
by RTT Staff Writer
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