U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed his support for "the universal right to freedom of expression" to mark World Press Freedom Day.

The U.N. General Assembly in 1993 proclaimed May 3 World Press Freedom Day and it has been observed since.

"With the proliferation of so-called new media, new technologies and ways of distributing content, information has become far more accessible," said Annan in his statement issued Tuesday. "Mainstream media reporting, for example, is being supplemented by 'participatory media' such as blogs.

"But as media and journalism evolve, certain bedrock principles remain paramount," he continued. "I declare my firm support for the universal right to freedom of expression."

Annan also decried the many members of media "to have been killed, maimed, detained or targeted in other ways for pursuing that right in good conscience."

He pointed out the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 47 journalists were killed in 2005, and 11 have lost their lives so far this year.

"It is tragic and unacceptable that the number of journalists killed in the line of duty has become a barometer for measuring press freedom," the secretary-general said.

The top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Special Representative Ashraf Qazi, marked the day with a statement saying more than 70 journalists have been killed in the past three years in the country.

He urged the incoming government to assist Iraq's independent media in its struggle for the right to seek, receive and impart information in a responsible manner, terming it one of the necessary preconditions for establishing a healthy democracy in Iraq.