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UNESCO Iraq celebrates World Press Freedom Day [EN/AR]

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Baghdad, 12 May 2022 - More than 2,600 Iraqi journalists have lost their jobs since the start of the Corona pandemic in 2020 until today, and the cause is due to the digital skills possessed by young creators of digital content that pioneering and senior journalists lack. This is one of the major challenges confronting Iraq's journalistic community, which was highlighted at the ceremony with a lengthy discussion among journalists, Iraqi government agencies, international organizations, and foreign embassies including the UK embassy, Canadian embassy, Australian embassy, and Dutch embassy.

The Netherlands have been an invaluable partner to UNESCO, and yesterday we officially launched the second phase of the project “Breaking the Silence: enhance judicial accountability on safety of journalists and end impunity”.

“Crime and violence against journalists too often go unpunished. We believe that Iraq can do much better - press freedom and safety of journalists in Iraq can and must be improved” said by Rochus Pronk, Deputy Head of Mission at the Netherlands Embassy in Iraq.

Paolo Fontani, UNESCO Representative to Iraq, said in his opening speech: “The theme chosen for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Journalism under Digital Siege”. World Press Freedom Day underlines topics that address the digital era’s impact on freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, access to information and privacy and how to develop concrete recommendations to address these challenges. The digital era has also put media workers and their sources at greater risk of being targeted, harassed and attacked – for instance, due to data retention, spyware and digital surveillance.

While the Supreme Judicial Council in Iraq recalled the sacrifices of journalists, the representative of the Council’s President, Mrs. Sinan Ghanem, said: “The Supreme Judicial Council strongly supports freedom of expression in Iraq, takes into account the challenges facing the journalistic community, and is one of the supporters of projects to enhance the protection of journalists and end impunity from Punishment."

"We still need to keep up with global development in the areas of digital inclusion, particularly in the press sector in Iraq," said Muhammad Al-Asadi, Executive Director of the Media and Communications Commission CMC. "Our next goal as a body is to build the skills of journalists and women journalists to be able to keep up with digital developments."

The ceremony featured discussions and presentations by a group of journalists on how to break the digital siege on journalism, as well as presentations by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior MoI, on its next steps in strengthening the Iraqi national mechanism for safety of journalists and ending impunity.

The Dutch organization FreePressUnlimited participated in a presentation on the national plans to develop Iraqi media, and the head of FPU, Leo Williams, spoke about the partnership with UNESCO in Iraq, on “Breaking the Silence”.

The MDP Multi-Donor Program for the Safety of Journalists and the Promotion of Freedom of Expression is the primary source of financing for this event. Iraq implements three primary axes in the context of this initiative, headed by the journalistic community, that focus on enhancing legislation ensuring press freedoms, protecting women journalists, and building an effective advocacy pattern in Iraq.