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24 September 2014
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Breathing sculpture

Breathing - a new sculpture for Broadcasting House

UN Secretary-General dedicates memorial to journalists

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, will pay tribute to journalists and crew killed upholding freedom of speech at an event in central London tonight (Monday 16 June).


The Secretary-General will dedicate a light sculpture on top of the new wing of the BBC Broadcasting House building, which projects a beam of light up to one kilometre into the night sky, to the memory of journalists and news staff killed in the line of work.


The Secretary-General is guest of honour at the event which is co-hosted by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and the BBC, to officially inaugurate the memorial, called Breathing.


He will address a distinguished audience of politicians, journalists, former hostages and families of people killed in pursuit of reporting the news.


Tonight's inauguration follows the recent deaths of two BBC journalists in Afghanistan and Somalia: Abdul Samad Rohani and Nasteh Dahir Faraah.


Rodney Pinder, Director of INSI, said: "These men and women are the unsung heroes of democracy, for without a free press there can be no freedom. This shaft of light in the capital of international journalism is a visual reminder of their sacrifice."


Introducing the Secretary-General, BBC Chairman Sir Michael Lyons will say: "We are all reminded of the daily risks taken by journalists in some of the world's most dangerous places.


"The implicit contract, whereby journalists place their lives at risk to help us understand the world and its events better, needs to be reaffirmed at moments like this. That sacrifice is properly valued and the loss is widely shared."


Thanking Mr Ban Ki-moon for his continued personal commitment to freedom of expression and improving safety of all journalists and news teams working around the world, BBC Director-General Mark Thompson says: "We should never forget or underestimate the risks that journalists reporting from hostile environments face.


"We hope this poignant memorial will serve as a nightly reminder of the sacrifice made by many in the cause of free expression and journalism."


Eighteen months ago the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1738, which demanded action by member states to end violent attacks on the news media and end impunity for those who kill journalists.


An INSI study issued in March last year found that every week, for the last ten years, at least two journalists or news staff have been killed trying to report the news; and in 90% of cases no-one is brought to justice.


Breathing and Memorial poem


The sculpture, situated on the roof of the new wing of BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place in London W1, is a glass and steel construction entitled Breathing by the international artist Jaume Plensa.


Every night, a light beam, extending one kilometre into the sky, will illuminate the sculpture for 30 minutes, in tandem with the BBC's ten o'clock news bulletin.


Selected after an international competition as part of the BBC's public art programme for Broadcasting House, this artwork takes its inspiration from the audio life of the building (home to the BBC's Audio & Music division), shaped as it is in the form of a giant, 10 metre high, listening glass.


It also creates a third spire in the trinity of spires made up by the BBC radio mast on the roof of the Grade II* listed Broadcasting House and the spire of the adjacent All Souls Church.


The words which are inscribed around the sculpture in a spiral of continuous text evoke the antithetical themes of speech and silence, life and death.


The sculpture is dedicated to news journalists killed on location.


The final form of Breathing is the result of a dialogue between the artist Jaume Plensa, the Broadcasting House architect Sir Richard MacCormac and his team from MJP Architects, and public art consultants Modus Operandi.


The glass and steel construction of the sculpture has evolved through close collaboration between the artist, the architects and the engineers Whitby Bird & Partners.


In addition, the BBC commissioned a poem by ex-war correspondent and poet James Fenton, entitled Memorial.


This poem complements the sculpture, remembering the bravery and self-sacrifice made by news journalists and their crews from news organisations across the world.


The full text of the poem is included in the press pack.


Live pool pictures for broadcasters


A live event pool is being made available to all broadcasters, hosted by BBC News. It will include material from inside the event including speeches, as well as the illumination moment. Pool available: 2125–2200hrs local. Available to all via TVC or BT Tower. Local end TC (F909).


Registered users can obtain photographs of the sculpture, illuminated as it will appear after its dedication, from


Notes to Editors


More than 200 reporters have lost their lives since the start of 2007.


News staff are vulnerable not just in conflict zones but also to targeting from criminal and paramilitary groups.


The International News Safety Institute (INSI) website contains further statistics and information about danger zones.


The INSI is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the safety of journalists and media staff. It is a network of media organisations, press freedom groups, unions and humanitarian campaigners working to create a culture of safety in media in all corners of the world.


BBC Press Office


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